Tuesday, 02 December 2014 09:03

Rural housing decision is 'huge blow'

Written by  Ruralcity Media
Rural housing decision is 'huge blow'

A GOVERNMENT decision means developers will no longer have to provide affordable housing on many smaller rural sites.

Communities minister Brandon Lewis announced the removal of Section 106 agreements from sites of fewer than 10 homes in a written statement to parliament.

It means developers will no longer have to provide affordable housing when building homes on smaller sites.

Mr Lewis said: "Due to the disproportionate burden of developer contributions on small-scale developers, for sites of 10-units or less, and which have a maximum combined gross floor space of 1,000 square metres, affordable housing and tariff style contributions should not be sought.

"This will also apply to all residential annexes and extensions."

For designated rural areas under section 157 of the Housing Act 1985, which includes National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, authorities may choose to implement a lower threshold of 5-units or less, beneath which affordable housing and tariff style contributions should not be sought.

This will also apply to all residential annexes and extensions.

Mr Lewis said: "Within these designated areas, if the 5-unit threshold is implemented then payment of affordable housing and tariff style contributions on developments of between 6 to 10 units should also be sought as a cash payment only and be commuted until after completion of units within the development.

"These changes in national planning policy will not apply to rural exception sites which, subject to the local area demonstrating sufficient need, remain available to support the delivery of affordable homes for local people.

"However, affordable housing and tariff style contributions should not be sought in relation to residential annexes and extensions."

The Rural Services Network said abandoning the requirement for developers to include affordable housing when building homes on smaller development sites was ill-thought through.

Rural Services Network housing spokesman Andy Dean said: "This decision is huge blow for rural communities. It is very, very disappointing news.

"Affordable housing is key to retaining young people in rural communities and in smaller rural settlements, this is how most new affordable homes are delivered."

The Rural Services Network is calling on the government to reverse the decision which exempts developers on sites with 10 or fewer homes from requirements to include affordable housing - at least, in relation to all rural settlements.

In some rural areas, the exemption will apply to sites with five or fewer homes.

But Mr Dean said: "This is a small concession and the policy could still decimate the provision of rural affordable housing because most sites in villages are small.

"These planning requirements are the mechanism which delivers most of the new affordable homes in our villages. Without them, families will be priced out of the countryside.

"There is scant evidence that such planning agreements undermine development site viability and, where local authorities conclude it would, they can already reduce the burden.

"We have to find a better way to balance the government's desire to encourage small scale builders with the over-riding need to provide affordable homes in rural communities."

People in this conversation

  • This will certainly be a significant blow for Sevenoaks District and it is likely to mean a big reduction in the amount of affordable housing the Council is able to deliver. The housing market in this District does not need any encouragement but the real need is for housing for key local workers. An estimate of the impact, just using the applications currently in the system, is that £2.5 million which the Council could have used to provide affordable housing will no longer be paid.

    from New Ash Green, Kent, UK
  • Guest (Graham Hurry)

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    In our parish the only sites that would have attracted such contributions are under 10 units. This will kill off any opportunities to provide affordable housing. The government, despite its rhetoric, shows no understanding of what is going on in small and medium size villages or their needs. All it seems to want to do is give developers an easy ride. How disappointing, but no surprise. Was the consultation any use? The decision was already a foregone result.

    from Alveley, Bridgnorth, Shropshire WV15, UK
  • Guest (Derrick Dyas)

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    This decision, yet again, shows a complete lack of understanding as to what is going on and how to ensure the continuity of sustainable rural communities.
    I can understand the policy for urban areas, except when plots get sub-divided, but in the shires provision on small sites is the mainstay of either the direct provision of affordable housing or for the funding of affordable housing on "exception" sites through commuted sums.
    I have no doubt there will be a backlash from enlightened Parish's

  • Guest (Pete Tisdale)

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    I can see a rise of sporadic developments, each of less than 10 dwellings, which in our rural Parish will be sold to wealthy retiring people moving in from urban areas. This will have a serious detrimental effect on the character of our village and use valuable land which we hoped would be used for low cost and affordable housing for local needs young families. We are already at our limit, with only one hospital which is severly overstretched, a shortage of schools and very poor transport links.

  • Guest (David Hughes)

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    I fully endorse all the comments already made. In Cornwall there is already enormous pressure on relatively small sites from developers wihing to build "luxury" homes, some of which are occupied by wealthy "incomers" but many of which will become second homes or holiday lets. The effect of these changes will be to increase the value of the limited available development sites and thus the cost of providing social housing and reducing the opportunities for "self-build".

  • Guest (Derek)

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    On the other hand, it is true that the provision of affordable housing forces up the price of open-market housing which is already high. I would argue that we need a new approach to find the subsidy for affordable housing, such as a direct government grant.

    from New Forest National Park, Hampshire, UK
  • Guest (Carole Gerada)

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    Councils do not have to do everything the government tells them. It is up to local council planning teams to demonstrate understanding of the word 'democracy' instead of continuing to work in an autocracy. Planners can refuse developments of 10 properties and agree with developers the need for more housing of an affordable kind. So they can advise developers to submit plans for 15 houses. Common sense must not leave leaders of communities. It's time to listen to communities and not direct them.

    from Scarborough, North Yorkshire, UK
  • Guest (Derrick Dyas)

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    But the price of market housing is not determined by I'm puts but by market conditions like size, location, design etc.
    The issue is there is very little government grant hence the need to rely on planning devices and goodwill of landowners.
    However, this new impediment is only relevant where authorities had already had a threshold of less than 10 dwellings. Where thresholds are higher this could be an incentive to reduce to 10. So, could be positive result??!!

    from Solihull, West Midlands, UK
  • Guest (Joan Denton)

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    Would you not say that a 'small development' does not depend on the size of plot but on how many houses a developer applies to build?

  • Guest (Arnold Ward)

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    Like it or not S106 obligations are a serious brake on needed development. Rural councils would better serve their constituents with a small homes policy.

    from Weybridge, Surrey, UK

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