Planning review must be implemented in way that creates more affordable rural homes

For immediate release

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Rural Services Network [1] assistant director Andy Dean has commented on the launch of a government consultation on proposals for a major overhaul of national planning policy [2].

Mr Dean said:

"It is critical to success that local authorities have adequate resources to plan effectively. There is no evidence that Councils are holding back development.

"It is really important to maintain the position of Rural Exception Sites as a delivery mechanism for affordable housing in rural areas."

Mr Dean added:

"The new concept of Entry Level Exception Sites (ELESs) is interesting and develops the undoubted success of Rural Exception Sites.

"It is important that local communities are intrinsically involved – on the location, design, tenures and who lives in the homes – and that ELESs build on rather than undermine Rural Exception Sites.

"The government needs to ensure the delivery of more affordable homes in rural areas by unequivocally removing the current threshold of 10 units where affordable homes need to be provided on market housing sites."

Mr Dean further commented:

"It is encouraging that the new draft NPPF gives some specific consideration to rural communities from both a housing and economic point of view.

"We hope that this consideration continues into future national policy decisions as we go forward.

"The RSN particularly welcomes the ambition to reform the viability assessment loophole, which has been used to prevent delivery of thousands of new rural affordable homes.

"The detail of how such assessments are carried out in practice will be critical."

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Editors notes:

[1] The Rural Services Network is the only non-governmental organisation representing the interests of rural service providers and the communities that they serve. It involves currently some 154 Local Authorities and over 100 other service providers. It comprises SPARSE Rural, the Rural Assembly, the wider Rural Services Partnership and the RSN Community Group. The organisation works with Rural England, a stand-alone CIC research group. For details, visit

[2] The government's consultation on the National Planning Policy Framework and developer contribution consultations can be viewed at

Media contact:

Andy Dean
RSN Assistant Director
M: 07872 373191

Our Key Messages:

Public Sector Funding
Central Government has historically and systematically underfunded rural areas giving them less grant per head than urban areas – despite the fact that it costs more to provide the services. Rural residents earn less on average than those in urban areas and therefore pay more Council Tax for fewer local government services. Government policy, implicitly, is that council services in rural areas are more reliant on funding through council tax than their urban counterparts. We demand fairer funding for all public services serving rural areas.

Barriers to Access
Rural residents and businesses face multiple barriers in terms of access to key services, including transport and broadband. Yet councils providing services to rural residents receive less money from government, pay disproportionately more for fewer services and typically earn less than people in urban areas. As a result rural residents suffer multiple disadvantages.

Future of Rural Areas
Rural communities contribute a great deal to the national economy but are facing threats to their future. This is due to a combination of chronic underfunding, demographic challenges, diminishing resources, with the needs of rural areas being systematically overlooked. Without action conditions in rural areas will deteriorate further. It is in the national interest that we all work together to revitalise this fundamental national asset.

Health and Wellbeing
Despite its idyllic image, rural communities often experience difficulties in accessing health and support services. This is becoming increasingly difficult as specialist services are centralised to remain resilient and poor transport links reduce access. There are recruitment and retention issues amongst medical staff in rural areas. Rural residents are therefore vulnerable to isolation and poorer health outcomes in the long term. 


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