Memorandum by the Bedfordshire Councils'
Planning Consortium (AH 99)
Rising house prices in a climate where such
rises far outstrip increases in wage rates, particularly in a
rural economy, coupled with the loss of rural affordable housing
through right-to-buy, have brought about a familiar pattern of
the inability of many local people to afford market housing in
order to remain in, or close to, the parish of their birth or
close to their rural employment. There is also of course the issue
of key workers being unable to afford market price accommodation
in this area. Too little has been done for too long to address
this ever escalating problem. The Consortium supports mechanisms
to bring forward affordable housing in rural locations to counter
this problem and to address the loss of social cohesion that it
brings as locals move away to find housing.
Many villages in the past 20 years have only
seen the construction of large, detached, expensive houses, which
has badly upset the balance of the housing stock in these communities.
Such communities need Local Authority Planning Departments to
build into their Local Development Frameworks that future housing
developments in these villages must include, where possible, a
clear and positive move to insist on a goodly proportion of "market
housing" being smaller, less expensive properties, including
starter homes, to redress the "balance".
Mid Bedfordshire District Council has recently
introduced a Supplementary Planning Guidance on Affordable Housing,
which requires developers to provide on larger sites a minimum
of 28% Affordable homes. As windfall sites and smaller sites are
not included, in reality the proportion of newly built homes that
will be Affordable is bound to be less than 25% in Mid Beds. Such
Affordable Homes will be funded by the developers via S106 agreements.
At least this is far better than those neighbouring authorities
which have yet to produce their own SPG to cover Affordable Housing
or have no plan to do so, as with Milton Keynes!! The East of
England plan has an overall target to provide affordable housing
at the rate of at least 30%. How can this possibly be achieved
when LA planning departments are not attempting to hit this target?
Realistically, to achieve the target, surely some significant
Government funding has to be brought into the equation!
As advised above, we have a District Council
which has introduced an SPG on Affordable Housing which will produce
an appreciable number of such homes in the years to comea
forward thinking policy which is to be applauded. However, their
policy regarding the allocation of these dwellings remains unchanged
being based purely on a points system for people on the housing
register for the District as a whole. The Consortium would propose
that, based on a housing needs survey, routinely a proportion
of newly built Affordable Homes is specifically allocated to local
(parish) need rather than District need, which is currently the
policy. Such a policy of local allocation would prove to be an
important tool in rural delivery with specific advantages such
1. existing communities impacted by comparatively
large developments will feel more able to accept this if there
is some "pay-off" for them and
2. the presence of people from the existing
community within new developments sets up valuable links between
incomers and resident population.
For a community to have new affordable homes
built within the parish on an allocated site, have the evidence
of a recent housing needs survey identifying a very clear need
for such housing for people with strong links to that community
and be informed that none of that truly local need can be met
because of the allocations policy leads to considerable discontent.
Not only does it appear unjust but also illogical and totally
lacking in common sense!!
The release of land for Rural Exception Sites
is by far and away the most pressing problem for their establishment.
From The Consortium's experience, the establishment of Rural Exception
Sites has only been successful where land owned from the public
sector was made available. Private landowners are generally reluctant
to release land at values applicable to exception sites because:
1. They hope to hang oneven if it
is for many yearsand receive "proper" commercial
value rather than the small commercial sums being offered for
exception site development.
2. They are suspicious of a mechanism that
expects them to part with land at a low value and then to see
shared ownership properties delivering a rise in value to these
There is no real answer to this problem: certainly
compulsory purchase powers would not appear to be a reasonable
course of action. It has to be recognised therefore that rural
exception sites are not the panacea to the problem of a clear
need for affordable housing in a large proportion of smaller rural
The pivotal role of the Rural Housing Enablers
in the process of delivery remains worryingly under-resourced.
Training and qualifications are unstructured, contracts and funding
are of a temporary, short-term nature and this hardly suits the
long-term nature of the process of delivering Rural Exception