Catastrophic proposals will ruin rural affordable housing

PRESS RELEASE
For immediate release

16 September 2014

LOCAL communities will suffer under government plans that will reduce the amount of affordable housing in the countryside, England's largest rural network has warned.

The Rural Services Network [1] has called on ministers to abandon proposals that mean housing developments of less than 10 units would no longer have to include affordable homes [2]. RSN chief executive Graham Biggs MBE said: "The 10-home threshold would be nothing short of ruinous for the provision of affordable housing in rural areas."

Most rural developments were small - which meant they would be affected by the threshold proposal, said Mr Biggs.

The vast majority of developments were below the ten unit threshold - often because local communities looked on smaller housing schemes more favourably.

But Mr Biggs warned: "Without an obligation to provide any affordable homes, the supply of affordable housing will virtually dry up."

Mr Biggs made the comments in a letter sent from members of the Rural Services Network to communities minister Brandon Lewis [3].

If the ten unit threshold was imposed, the "hope value" would increase significantly that all new homes could be sold at full market value, says the letter.

This would make it extremely difficult to persuade owners to part with land on the special terms that mean affordable homes can be built.

In the rural context, a policy which required local planning authorities not to require an affordable housing contribution from sites of less than 10 units had no rational purpose.

"Its consequences would be no less than catastrophic," the letter says.

"It also would fly in the face of localism and would seriously undermine the national planning policy framework. Such a proposal has clearly not been rural-proofed."

To meet these concerns, the letter calls on the government to exempt from the threshold all sites in villages of less than 3,000 population.

The government should consider extending the exemption to all towns and villages of less than 10,000 population, it adds.

ENDS

Media contact:

Graham Biggs
Rural Services Network

E: graham.biggs@sparse.gov.uk
T: 01588 674 922
M: 07966 790197

 
NOTES TO EDITORS:

1. The Rural Services Network is a group of more than 200 organisations working together to improve the delivery of rural services across England. The two operating arms of the network are the Sparsity Partnership for Authorities Delivering Rural Services (SPARSE) and the Rural Services Partnership. Further information and a full list of members are available at http://www.rsnonline.org.uk

2. The Department for Communities and Local Government has been canvassing opinion on proposals to introduce a 10-unit threshold for Section 106 affordable housing contributions. The Rural Services Network (RSN) previously responded to a government consultation on the proposals. The government is expected to announce its decision following the consultation imminently.

3. A copy of the letter can be seen here. The RSN has also produced a briefing note outlining concerns regarding the 10-unit threshold proposal.

4. The Rural Services Network seeks to establish best practice across the spectrum of rural service provision. The network has representation across the complete range of rural services, including local authorities, public bodies, businesses, charities and voluntary groups. We are devoted to safeguarding and improving services in rural communities across England. We are the only national network specifically focusing on this vital aspect of rural life.

5. The Rural Services Network exists to ensure services delivered to the communities of predominantly and significantly rural England are as strong and as effective as possible. The term 'predominately rural' refers to counties and Local Authority districts with at least 50 percent of their population living in rural settlements (ie. rural towns, villages, hamlets and dispersed dwellings) as identified in the Office for National Statistics' rural definition, and including larger market towns as identified in the Defra classification of Local Authority districts. The term 'significant rural' refers to those Local Authorities who are between 25% and 50% rural under the same classification. The rural definition and classification were devised by the Rural Evidence Research Centre (RERC) at Birkbeck College. Further information on these can be found on the RERC website at www.rerc.ac.uk.

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