Spotlight on Rural Housing - January 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

Cost of living rural household survey underway

The Rural Services Network in partnership with the Citizens Advice Rural Issues Group has launched a Rural Cost of Living Household Survey 

Independent research commissioned by the RSN in summer last year shows rural areas are suffering more acutely from the cost-of-living crisis compared to urban areas.

To lend more weight to the argument for more funding for rural areas the RSN is calling on as many rural residents as possible to complete a Rural Cost of Living Household Survey.

The purpose of the survey is to understand more about rural household budgets at, what is, a very difficult time for many.

Research has shown that those living in rural areas face extra costs and the survey aims to explore the impacts for households.

RSN want to receive as many survey responses as possible, whatever a household’s income or financial position. This will help RSN and their partners to engage more effectively with Government Departments, MPs and other policy makers.

You can access the survey at the following link:

Suffering from the rural cost of living? Make your thoughts known in household survey - Rural Services Network (

Please forward the survey link to all your contacts, networks, family and friends living in rural areas – the greater the response the better!

The survey closes on 31 March 2023.

UK’s first rural affordable Passivhaus scheme continues to perform well after 10 years

A 10-year assessment of the performance of the UK’s first rural affordable Passivhaus scheme has found that it continues to meet expectations and perform as designed.

The assessment of the 14 Passivhaus homes built in 2011 by Hastoe Housing Association in Wimbish, Essex, is the first to consider Passivhaus performance over such a long period of time in the UK. The in-depth assessment has determined the homes, a mix of houses and flats for shared ownership and affordable rent, continue to be comfortable, healthy and economic to run. The assessment which included a resident survey found the heating bills of some residents were only £30 a quarter!

The findings are published in a recent report written by Martin Ingham, a Passivhaus Designer and independent consultant specialising in energy efficiency in the built environment.

This latest assessment builds on the Innovate UK (formerly the Technology Strategy Board) funded Building Performance Evaluation study that covered the period from 1 April 2011 to 30 September 2013, and on assessments in 2016 and 2018.

Martin Ingham of Linktreat Ltd, said: “Earlier Building Performance Evaluations confirmed the Wimbish Passivhaus Development met Hastoe’s objective to deliver very low heating bills, while providing excellent comfort. The evaluation has now been continued to cover a ten-year period, and our recent reassessment has shown that heating and hot water costs remain a fraction of the cost for dwellings of comparable size. This will be invaluable for residents given the recent steep rise in energy costs, and shows the industry that by adopting high performance standards low bills can be achieved.”

The decade-long monitoring and assessment has confirmed there are no adverse performance trends and has also helped to identify defects so they can be remedied. The report makes recommendations to reduce the risk of future developments experiencing any ‘performance gap’.

Full details of the assessments, including the latest 10-year assessment, can be downloaded at:

Building Strong Foundations for Housing Success in Staffordshire

South Staffordshire Council recently reaffirmed its commitment to improving the housing offer in the district, by formally adopting a new Housing and Homelessness Strategy 2023-2027 in December 2022.

This updated strategy seeks to ensure that everyone in South Staffordshire is able to afford a home that is suitable for them, whether it be on the open market, or through a local Registered Provider. In its key priorities, the strategy also recognises the important role the district’s housing stock plays in the environment, and in particular, the climate change agenda.

The Council will continue to build on the strong track record of the previous strategy, which includes completion of over 450 affordable homes, 100 bungalows and three specialist housing schemes. What’s more, over 400 properties were adapted through the Disabled Facilities Grant programme and over 1,000 residents were supported through the Warmer Homes South Staffordshire advice line.

Partnership working remains at the heart of the strategy, recognising the important work that local housing providers, stakeholders, statutory bodies and residents do to improve housing outcomes in South Staffordshire.

Second phase of homes keeping families together in Northamptonshire

Just before Christmas Northamptonshire Rural Housing (NRHA) welcomed residents to their new homes in Norton.

The eight affordable homes, which are NRHA’s second phase of affordable homes in the village, are a mix of houses and bungalows.

The scheme shows just what can be achieved in rural locations, through partnership working between the association, the parish council, the community and local authority.

And it’s a great example of the importance of affordable rural housing in keeping families together in villages they would otherwise be priced out of. One new resident now lives just a few doors away from her sister, who lives in one of the first phase homes. And one family even has connections to the sheep living in the field opposite their new home!

The scheme was officially opened by Mrs Tate, the landowner who provided the land and strongly supported the development. And, despite the weather, the local community came out in force to celebrate the scheme. Father Christmas was even spotted! For more information on the scheme, please contact:

New social rented homes on Dartmoor

Eight households will be given the keys to a new affordable home in 2023, after work started on site to deliver a partnership development in Widecombe on Dartmoor.

Non-profit regional housing provider Teign Housing, Teignbridge District Council, Widecombe Parish Council and Dartmoor National Park have teamed up to address the lack of affordable housing in the area.

The latest housing needs survey showed that residents who had been raised or had jobs in the village were struggling to remain due to the cost of the average home.

The new development – made possible thanks to a £95,000 contribution from Teignbridge District Council, a £560,000 Homes England grant and Teign Housing funding – will see eight properties completed before the close of 2023. The properties will be a mix of one-bedroom maisonette flats, and two-two-bedroom and four-three-bedroom houses.

The homes have a special allocation criterion, meaning those who can demonstrate a strong local connection to the area will be given priority.  They will be available for social rent.

Following extensive consultation with local residents, the final scheme includes a residents’ orchard, a traditional design style to match existing buildings and parking to avoid overspill to local roads. It also offers new informal play space, as requested by existing residents.

Representatives from Teign Housing, local councillors and other partners came together to mark the official start on site.

Dartmoor National Park Authority’s Development Management Committee Chair Philip Sanders said: “The delivery of small developments of affordable housing is a lifeline for Dartmoor villages like Widecombe, enabling families, younger people, and older people to have the opportunity to live in their own community. This type of development only takes place because of strong partnership working. These affordable homes for local people will be an important asset for the community of Widecombe now, and long into the future.”

For more information please contact:

Community spirit in Warwickshire

The official opening of Warwickshire Rural Housing Association’s seven eco-friendly affordable homes on Gwens Grove in Bearley was the perfect opportunity to remember the scheme’s namesake and Bearley community icon, Gwen Smith.

Despite the freezing temperatures, the local community came together with Gwen’s family and local councillors to celebrate the scheme opening and to raise a glass in memory of Gwen.

Gwen Smith passed away earlier this year aged 101. She was a well-known and much-loved member of the Bearley community who’d made a big difference to the lives of many local people.

Guests were invited to bring a bauble to hang on the Christmas tree to celebrate Gwen’s life and her contribution to the village. There were some beautiful baubles, and the effort people had gone to showed just how special she was to so many. There was even one with a picture of Gwen dressed as a Christmas elf inside!

Gwen’s children Roger and Heather did the official opening ribbon cutting, and told us just what the event meant to the family:

“Bearley was a lovely village to grow up in and Mum absolutely loved living here. There’s a real community spirit, which mum was a big part of, she was involved in everything!

“Mum knew how difficult it’s become for people to afford to stay in the village. And we know she’d have been delighted to see so many people here tonight celebrating the opening of these new homes.”

During the evening, the Gwens Grove residents held a raffle which raised over £175, for Gwen’s favourite charity, the Farming Community Network.

For more information on the scheme, please contact:

Government seeks views on changes to the NPPF

The government has launched a consultation seeking views on its proposed approach to updating to the National Planning Policy Framework. They are also seeking views on their proposed approach to preparing National Development Management Policies, how they might develop policy to support levelling up, and how national planning policy is currently accessed by users.

This consultation closes on 2 March 2023, and you can read all the details at the following link: Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill: reforms to national planning policy - GOV.UK (

Suffolk village increases affordable housing by over 30%

The completion of six brand new affordable homes was officially marked by the community of Middleton in Suffolk last autumn.

Prior to the houses being built, there was a total of 19 affordable homes in the area of Middleton. These six new homes represent a 31.57% increase in social housing provision making a huge difference to local people and life in the village.

Once a green field site, the development includes three 2-bedroom houses for social rent, as well as one 2-bedroom house and two 2-bedroom bungalows for shared ownership. All homes have been prioritised for people with a local connection to Middleton, such as those working in the village, those with close family in the area, or those who previously lived there but were forced to move out because of a lack of affordable housing.

The homes have been designed in a local traditional style with a mix of materials to fit with the character of the village. They’ve also been built to a high energy-efficient standard to help reduce fuel bills for residents.

With the support of the local Rural Housing Enabler to identify a suitable site, works began on site in December 2020 and were completed in February 2022. The homes were developed in partnership with Middleton Parish Council, East Suffolk Council, Suffolk County Council, architects Parsons + Whittley, building contractor Marfleet and Blyth, and employer’s agent Potter Raper.

Hastoe invested £958,000 into the development with an additional £330,000 from Homes England.

Jo Lavis, Hastoe Board member, said: “I would like to congratulate everyone who has helped deliver the community’s vision to provide these 6 affordable homes. Although it may not sound very many, these 6 homes represent more than a 30% increase in the provision of affordable homes for Middleton. Anyone with a knowledge of rural communities will know these homes make a significant difference not just to those people who live in them but to the whole community because they enable families and communities to stay together.”

English Rural appoints new finance director

English Rural has announced the appointment of Eddie Smy as its new Finance Director. Eddie will succeed English Rural’s long-standing Finance Director, Ray Green, who will retire in February 2023.

Eddie brings with him a wealth of experience in high-level finance roles within the housing and banking sectors, having previously held positions at Cross Keys Homes and Santander.

In his new role as Finance Director, Eddie will be responsible for progressing the finance function at English Rural, deploying his skills in treasury, risk management, budgeting, and financial planning. He will play a pivotal role in supporting English Rural’s growth ambitions and building on the solid financial stewardship that he inherits.

Eddie said: “As English Rural’s new Finance Director. I’m looking forward to working for an organisation with such a strong social purpose and sound financial track-record. My focus will be to ensure English Rural continues on a sound financial footing that sustains its financial resilience and underpins the foundations to deliver its strategic ambitions.”

Right to shared ownership scheme guidance

Residents in social and affordable housing are being given the chance to buy a share in their home for the first time, as applications can now be made to for the government’s Right to Shared Ownership scheme.

The Department for Levelling Up Housing and Communities published new guidance for tenants to access the scheme in December.

Tenants will be able to buy a share of their property worth between 10% and 75%.

Tenants will be eligible if they have been in social housing for 3 years, their property was built under the government’s Affordable Homes Programme 2021-26, and they have lived in it for a year. This option is intended to become available to more tenants in the coming years.

You can read more details at the following link: Tenants able to buy a share of their home under Right to Shared Ownership scheme - GOV.UK (

Housing Insights from RSN

RSN Member Insights is the place to discover the statistics that define communities within membership of the Rural Services Network (RSN).  It is regularly updated with new analyses, and these will be highlighted in the 'What's New' section of the RSN's Weekly Rural Bulletin.  The Rural Bulletin also provides a selection of the most rurally topical news items, so do subscribe and encourage your colleagues to subscribe to what is an invaluable weekly periodical.

Updated Housing Insights and other housing related analyses can be accessed via this link.

To make a suggestion of data that would benefit you by being included in the Member Insights section, please email Dan Worth, RSN’s Research and Performance Analyst, at

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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