Memorandum by The Land is Ours (AFH 60)
A not insignificant number of people are living
in marginal conditions (typically in mobile homes) in the countryside,
without planning permission or with insecure planning status.
There are also many people who would willingly build themselves
a home, at no cost to society, if they had the opportunity, and
who are, therefore, a wasted resource. The needs of these people
are not provided for in present planning policy. This submission
points to some of the policy areas which could be changed so as
to accommodate these needs.
1. Chapter 7: Who We Are and Who We Represent
1.1 Chapter 7 seeks to represent the planning
and housing interests of rural low income people. In particular
we provide a planning advice service for people who have been
marginalised through their inability to secure appropriate affordable
housing in the countryside. These people represent a minority
but not a tiny one. They are one of the specific groups whose
needs are referred to in Paragraph 13 of PPG3 on Housing. We also
occasionally deal with gypsies, though there are other organisations
better equipped to deal with the specific needs of this group.
1.2 There is also a considerably larger
constituency of people who would like to locate modest affordable
accommodation of this kind in a rural situation, but cannot see
any prospect of doing so. This includes farmers' sons or daughters
and other local people who have migrated reluctantly to nearby
towns. Many of these local people have access to appropriate land,
and the capability of building/developing their own house, but
cannot secure planning permission.
1.3 People living in marginal conditions
in the countryside are most likely to live in caravans or mobile
homes, but they also may occupy self-built low-impact homes, chalets,
barns, workshops, sheds, shacks, yurts, tents, boats and other
makeshift accommodationvery often without planning permission.
They include self-builders, farmworkers, smallholders, forestry
workers, people working in other rural jobs, former travellers,
people who have retired, people who don't like living in houses,
self-builders, people with an illness who live in the countryside
for health reasons, and others with particular needs. They include
both locals and comparative incomers to the areas they live in.
1.4 People living in marginal conditions
are a minority amongst the sum total of people with affordable
housing problems, but they are not a tiny minority. Chapter 7
deals with planning enquiries from about 400 people every year.
We can only make a very rough guess that there could be 10,000
people throughout the country facing the sort of problems that
we describe; many more if you include gypsies.
2. Our Main Concerns
2.1 The problems encountered by such people
are not recognised by policymakers
The Rural White Paper does not mention caravans
and mobile homes even though these have become an integral part
of the rural fabric, and indeed any new farming or forestry enterprise
is restricted to temporary accommodation for the first few years
(PPG7 Annex I). We suspect that is because, like rural housing
problems generally, this is a "hidden" problemall
the more so because people without planning permission have an
interest in staying hidden. Similarly PPG3 does not recognise
the existence of self-builders even though they represent a significant
and growing proportion of housing new-build, involving a wide
range of people.
2.2 No provision is made for such people
or their needs in planning policy
There are only two applicable policies in planning
guidance. One is Annex I of PPG7 which provides for mobile homes
for agricultural and forestry workers. The detail of this guidance
has been found, in appeals and in case law (Petter and Harris
v Secretary of State and Chichester DC, 1999) to be inappropriate
for many smallholders.
Similarly, the rural exceptions site Policy
in PPG3 is unhelpful: firstly it only applies to local people
(we agree that local people should have priority, but less wealthy
incomers to the countryside require accommodation too); secondly,
the need has to be confirmed by local authority monitoring; and
thirdly the policy is formulated in such a way that it is only
open to bodies such as housing associations, and cannot respond
to one-off proposals from self builders and other individuals.
The result is that many people (over half the
people who make enquiries to Chaper 7) live without planning permission,
either surreptitiously or under threat of enforcement action,
for a number of years. It is not uncommon for people to live in
mobile homes for periods of 15 years or more with the threat of
enforcement either over their heads, or hovering in the background.
This situation is highly unsatisfactory for the people concerned,
and undermines the credibility of the planning system.
2.3 The proposal in paragraphs 5.69 to 70
of the Green Paper on Planning to make development without planning
permission an offence is ill-conceived
We assume that this proposed measure is not
aimed at semi-homeless rural people, but it will have the effect
of turning many such people into offenders. Similarly the proposal
in the same section of the Green Paper to charge punitive fees
for retrospective applications will impact severely upon people
who find themselves living in a caravan or similar at short notice,
because they have nowhere else to live. There is a risk that if
these proposals become law, some people will be displaced, creating
a need for transit sites or similar.
2.4 These are all people who are able to
provide affordable accommodation for themselves at no expense
We view it as a waste of resources that there
is no provision for them to do so. This applies not only to those
who are presently living in marginal conditions, but also to those
who would happily undertake building/commissioning their own house
if the prospect were open to them.
3.1 The Rural Exceptions Site Policy in PPG3
We would like to see this formulated so that
it provides opportunities for one-offs and self-builders; and
so that housing need for local people is assessed on the merits
of each individual case, rather than reliant upon a local authority
survey. This need could be assessed in tandem with the planning
application, by planning committee or appeal inspector. There
would need to be some agency involved which could assure dwelling
remained affordable when occupation or ownership was transferred.
A recent report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation reported that
the number of self-built homes has risen from 2,000 in 1978 to
15,000 in the mid 1990s; but that this reflects increased interest
from relatively well-off households. The average self-built house
cost almost £150,000 in 1999. The option for self-build needs
to be made available to lower income people. (The Current State
of the Self-Build Housing Market, JRF, September 2001).
3.2 Low Impact Housing
We consider that provision in planning guidance
for forms of low impact development, would allow affordable homes
to be built at very little cost for society with minimal impact
upon the environment, and would contribute significantly towards
Scotland has had a policy for low impact dwellings
in NPPG15 Rural Development, for 2 years and has recently inserted
the following guidance into its draft NPPG3 Housing: "NPPG15
indicates that low-impact development, such as housing incorporating
workspace, can provide both economic and environmental benefits.
Developments using innovative, energy-efficient technologies with
particularly low impacts on the environment may be acceptable
at locations where more conventional buildings would not. The
control of innovative low impact uses through the planning system
is best achieved by a plan-led approach. Proposals should be carefully
assessed against specified sustainable development criteria and
the wider policy objectives of the plan."
The Welsh Assembly has commissioned a research
report into Low Impact Development, carried out by the University
of the West of England and Land Use Consultants, due to report
later this year. A number of Local Authorities (eg Gloucester
CC, South Somerset, Mendip, Milton Keynes and Pembrokeshire) already
have draft policies or supplementary guidance for low impact housing.
In England these policies tend to fall foul of Regional Government
(the Gloucester policy was dropped) because there is no national
guidance on the matter.
It is clear that this is an issue that English
planning strategy will have to confront sooner or later and there
is nothing to be gained by delay. Conditions in England are different
from those in Scotland and Wales, and the issues involved are
complex (too complex to enter into in detail here). Policy guidance
providing for low impact development should not be introduced
without considerable research and forethought, but we view that
it is now time for that research to be carried out.
3.3 Annex I of PPG7: Agricultural Dwellings
This guidance is designed to meet the needs
of farm-workers on large-scale commercial farms. We would like
to see this altered to take into account the requirements of a
wider range of people deriving a livelihood from their land. The
following problems need addressing:
It is almost impossible for more than one or
two people at the most to meet the functional test; this effectively
rules out all groupings larger than a family.
No allowance in the financial test is made for
No allowance is made for part-time farmers,
even though the NFU reports 60 per cent of all farmers rely on
a secondary income.
The statement in PPG7 that "normally it
will be as convenient for [agricultural workers] to live in nearby
towns or villages" is simply not true. Very often it is highly
inconvenient for smallholders and small farmers to live away from
their holdings, and it causes unnecessary commuting.
There is no recognition that in many cases an
agricultural or similar land-based enterprise may provide sufficient
income for a family to live on site, but not sufficient to rent
or buy a house in a nearby village.