Spotlight on Rural Housing - April 2023

A quarterly bulletin facilitated by your membership of the Rural Services Network and produced in partnership with the Rural Housing Alliance, highlighting a selection of current rural housing issues and opportunities

Report reveals growing, invisible homelessness crisis in the countryside

A year-long study has exposed a surge in rural homelessness since the pandemic which has been worsened further by the cost-of-living crisis. According to analysis of official statistics, rough sleeping in rural areas shot up 24% in just one year.

Conducted by researchers at the University of Kent and the University of Southampton on behalf of a coalition of rural advocates and housing associations, the independent study exposes a “hidden homelessness epidemic, fuelled by skyrocketing housing costs and inadequate funding.”

Housing costs in affluent rural areas are driving an unseen crisis, where the “shame and stigma” of homelessness keep countless vulnerable individuals out of official statistics. The study brings to light the true scale of the problem across rural England, which is far worse than anyone could have imagined.

Isolation exacerbates the issue in rural areas, where limited transportation options and lack of support put homeless individuals at even greater risk. Those with physical or mental health needs are most vulnerable.

The coalition of rural advocates and housing associations behind the study, are calling on local and national leaders to address the dire situation, with recommendations including:

  • Factoring the needs of rural communities into all future homelessness strategies
  • Improved processes for counting and identifying rural homelessness
  • New support services addressing mental health and social and physical isolation
  • Dedicated investment for rural social housing and increased welfare funding to cover rent costs

You can read the full report at the following link:
English Rural | Shocking Report Reveals a Growing, Invisible Homelessness Crisis in Our Countryside

You can also view a BBC news item on the report at the following link:

In addition, you can sign up to join a webinar discussing the findings of the research on 26th April at the following link:
Homelessness in the Countryside: A Hidden Crisis Tickets, Wed 26 Apr 2023 at 12:30 | Eventbrite

Scotland’s Rural Housing Conference – presentations available to view

Rural Housing Scotland’s 22nd annual rural housing conference took place at Birnam Arts Centre on the 24th February 2023 – the first in-person conference since the Covid-19 pandemic hit in 2020.

This year, the conference looked at how to secure the sustainability and health of rural communities.

“Daytime TV is filled with the promise of A Simple Life, an Escape to the Country or a New Life in the Wild, a popular internet meme is #cottagecore – an idealisation of a pastoral life and escape from the dangers of the modern world. These trends have been exacerbated by the COVID 19 pandemic and the post pandemic changes in working practice which allow more people to work remotely.

“But, what do we need to do to ensure that rural communities benefit from the growth in remote working, how can we enable young people to remain and return to rural communities, and prevent depopulation and enable repopulation, without precipitating the gentrification and geriatrification of our rural communities?”

The programme examined a range of ideas which seek to address these issues including; Rural Housing Scotland initiatives Smart Clachan and Radical Rural Housing; learning from the approach taken in Ireland to Rural Development; securing a Just Transition for rural homes; how rural communities can benefit from the energy generated in their communities and how rewilding and repeopling can go hand in hand.

The presentations from the event are available to view at the following website:
Rural Housing Conference 2023 – Rural Housing Scotland

Peak District National Park affordable housing scheme wins national award

A newly-completed housing scheme, providing affordable rental homes in the heart of the Peak District National Park, has won national recognition for its contribution to local housing needs and land regeneration in a National Park community.

Bradwell Springs, in Bradwell (Derbyshire), beat off competition from housing developments in London, Hastings and Bridport.

The ‘Beautiful Community-Led Homes’ award has been presented to Bradwell Community Land Trust for the Bradwell Springs affordable housing development.
Bradwell Springs is a development of 55 houses, 12 of which are two-bedroom affordable rental houses owned by Bradwell Community Land Trust and managed by Peak District Rural Housing Association. The rest of the houses are open market housing.
The site was formerly an engineering works with various industrial sheds and buildings of no architectural interest in a central village location. The new houses have been sympathetically designed with an appropriate external appearance that reflects local building traditions.
Positive seeds were sown for the success of the development as early as 2015, when National Park planners and the community worked together to identify both the local need for affordable homes and to earmark Bradwell Springs as a site for community development.
Peak District National Park community policy planner Clare Wilkins explains:

“The award celebrates the development of a former industrial site, the scheme’s high-quality design and its success in helping to achieve community housing needs.
“The success story began in 2015, with a Neighbourhood Plan developed by residents working together with Peak District National Park planners to identify both the local need for affordable homes and to earmark Bradwell Springs as a site for community development.

Paul Downing, a trustee of Bradwell Community Land Trust, said:

“We are particularly proud of the award because it has been a collaborative project. We gratefully acknowledge the contributions of the landowner, developer, Peak District National Park Authority, Derbyshire Dales District Council and Peak District Rural Housing Association, who have been invaluable partners in the project, and above all the people of Bradwell whose support made the achievement possible.”

Find out more about the Bradwell Springs award:

Affordable rural homes delivered, and more on the way, despite challenging economic conditions

David Barrowcliff of English Rural Housing Association writes: “Despite challenging economic conditions facing the housing sector and society in general, we remain resolute in our commitment to working with rural communities to provide affordable homes for local households in need. Our continued progress is a testament to our business resilience, positivity, and optimism. We believe that everyone deserves a safe and secure place to call home, and we are determined to play our role in making that a reality in the countryside.”

English Rural continue to work in partnership with a wide range of local communities to progress their affordable rural housing development programme, providing much-needed homes for those in need.

Their current ‘under construction’ programme is delivering 48 affordable homes (both rented and shared ownership) on site in the following locations: Seal, Kent (6 homes), Challock, Kent (2 homes), Sandhurst, Kent (6 homes), Hambledon, Surrey (7 homes), Clavering, Essex (8 homes), Shepherdswell, Kent (10 homes), Stebbing, Essex (7 homes) and Peene, Kent (2 homes).

In addition, a pipeline of further projects is making good progress, including a scheme in Avening, Gloucestershire, which is due to start on site shortly and will provide 14 more affordable homes. Additionally, planning applications have been submitted for 49 more homes in six villages across English Rural’s operational area with applications being worked-up to submit for another 24 homes in four villages.

Impressive stuff! You can read more at:
English Rural | 51 Affordable Homes Delivered and More on the Way: Our Rural Housing Development Thrives Amid Tough Economic Conditions

Consultation on potential second homes Council Tax premium in Derbyshire Dales

The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill provides powers for councils to double the Council Tax payable on 2nd homes. Nationally, rural councils have been campaigning for this power for many years, reflecting the impact of 2nd homes in national parks, other rural areas and coastal authorities.

In Derbyshire Dales, the District Council has been consulting the community and owners of 2nd homes on the proposal. Like many rural areas, 2nd homes is an important issue.

A District Council spokesperson said: “1 in 20 homes in the Derbyshire Dales are not used for the purpose of permanent accommodation, and instead are used as second homes, holiday lets or are empty. It is thought that second homes can add to house price inflation and put local people at a disadvantage when existing homes come on the market. The Council Tax Premium for second homeowners may encourage them to sell their properties or may well put off future buyers wanting to purchase existing traditional homes as second homes.”

The consultation ran until 22nd March receiving 1790 responses.

You can read a Council report on the consultation from 16th March at the following link:
Second Homes Council Tax Premium.pdf (

Rural Housing Week 2023 – save the date!

For rural communities the housing crisis is multifaceted. Factors such as high house prices, a shortage of affordable rented housing, increasing levels of second home ownership and holiday lets, present challenges to local economies and the continuation of vital services in many rural areas.

The theme for Rural Housing Week 2023 (3-7 July) is 'building a better future for rural communities'. The focus will be on how a better future is possible for these communities and highlight the changes needed to make this a reality. Specific challenges will be highlighted throughout the week, the work being done by housing associations to tackle these, and how local and national politicians can create an environment that delivers the housing that rural communities need.

Watch this space for more information.

Heating Upgrade Grant recipients announced

As part of a £1.8 billion package of funding to boost energy efficiency and cut emissions of homes and public buildings across England, the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero has announced that Local Authorities have been awarded a combined £630m through the Home Upgrade Grant: Phase 2 (HUG 2) scheme.

With the funding confirmed, over the next two years the HUG 2 scheme is now set to support over 25,000 low-income households with retrofitted energy efficiency measures. Those being helped are typically the most poorly performing (EPC rating D-G) off-grid homes that are in the most need of upgrading.

Among the energy and cost saving measures that Local Authorities will be able to fund include exterior wall insulation, cavity wall insulation, loft insulation, new windows and doors and draft proofing measures, as well as heat pumps and solar panel installation.

Importantly, improving these homes also comes with the added benefit of supporting 7,000 jobs across the retrofit supply chain.

You can read more at the following link:
Congratulations to all HUG 2 recipients - Rural Services Network (

As part of the announcement, recipients of the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund and the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme have also been announced. You can read more at: £1.8 billion awarded to boost energy efficiency and cut emissions of homes and public buildings across England - GOV.UK (

Government consults on potential increase to planning fees

The government is seeking views on proposals “to increase planning fees and to improve the performance of local planning authorities.” This includes:

  • increase planning fees by 35% for major applications and 25% for all other applications
  • additional fees for bespoke or ‘fast track’ services
  • make an annual inflation-related adjustment to planning fees
  • ring-fence additional fees income
  • double fees for retrospective applications
  • remove the ‘free-go’ for repeat applications
  • build planning capacity and capability within local authorities, including challenges in recruitment and retention, and how these can be addressed

This consultation closes on 25 April 2023 and you can read more at the following link: Increasing planning fees and performance: technical consultation - GOV.UK (

Keep Calm and Join Up!

RSN exists to enable the issues facing the rural areas of England to be identified, information and good practice to be shared and government to be challenged to address the needs and build on the opportunities which abound in rural areas.

If you know a rural housing organisation that would benefit from membership, please ask them to consider joining us. RSN is a solely rural focussed organisation with an electronic distribution network in excess of 25,000 individuals.  We reach right across all the rural areas of England and provide a sustained and respected voice for rural areas at national level.  Anyone who wants to talk to us about our role and services in relation to rural housing should contact Andy Dean to find out more.

If you are a small housing organisation operating in rural England, you can have access to all the services of RSN for an annual subscription from just £255 plus VAT.  RSN exists to share information, promote good practice and represent the voice of rural England at a national level. Check out the website for more information or contact Andy Dean to join up.


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