Spotlight on Rural Housing - October 2021

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

Levelling-up needs a rural re-think

The government's 'levelling-up' agenda will need a rethink if it is to address rural housing needs says Graham Biggs, Chief Executive of the Rural Services Network, in an article which featured recently in The Planner.

“The government has announced a range of new funding mechanisms and plans for post-Covid recovery, to support its ‘levelling-up’ agenda. These have included a shake-up of the planning system through the planning bill, the Levelling Up Fund and the Community Renewal Fund, Towns Fund and the proposed UK Shared Prosperity Fund.

“The case for fair funding for public services in rural areas predates the pandemic and urgently needs to be addressed. There are huge challenges nationally, with the availability of affordable housing one of the biggest.

“If government economic and structural development funds were allocated on the basis of local real incomes, there would be a clearer line of sight from the levelling-up objective through to action on the ground. And more rural locations would benefit from a fairer distribution of national funds. Levelling up will be meaningless if rural housing needs are not also addressed. It’s time for a rethink.”

You can read the full article via this link.

Clarkson’s Farm needs a local workforce – and they need a home they can afford!

Earlier in the summer people flocked to the Cotswold village of Chadlington and queued for three hours to get into Jeremy Clarkson’s ‘Diddly Squat’ farm shop, popularised by the Amazon Prime series, ‘Clarkson’s Farm’. Clarkson bought the farm 11 years ago and it has been run by a contract farmer since. He freely admitted he knew nothing about farming and this lack of knowledge led to his new series as it follows the presenter as he attempts to run a working farm.

Martin Collett of English Rural Housing Association writes:

“There is no doubt that the series has spotlighted the complexities, inner-workings and injustices of farming a modern-day food chain. There is also no denying that the series has brought farming to a younger audience and enlightened an older one on farm management. But what the show does not reveal is a hidden rural problem faced by many young farm workers in the countryside who cannot afford a home in the community where they work.

“The unforeseen stars of the show are Kaleb and Ellen, young self-employed farm contractors on who Jeremy learns to depend, along with Head of Security, Gerald. Employment website Indeed lists the average UK annual farm workers salary as around £19,000. By contrast, average UK house prices are £256,000 – around 13.5 times these average salaries.

“Just as people flocked to the Cotswolds to buy Clarkson’s produce, many more are flocking to buy homes. It is a desirable place to live – rolling hills and outstanding natural beauty – but it comes at a cost. House prices in rural areas have risen by 21% in the last five years and are now rising twice as fast as in urban areas, putting an affordable home out of reach for many young rural workers.

“So, what is the solution? We need to build more affordable homes in rural areas. It is as simple as that.

“And we are not talking hundreds of homes that turn picturesque Cotswold villages into urban sprawls. A handful of beautiful homes – six to eight – on a small piece of land, secure significant value for rural communities. Building those homes allows young rural workers to remain in the villages they grew up in, close to their agricultural workplaces, family and friends. Not only do the workers themselves benefit, the rural community benefits too. Building just ten affordable rural homes supports 26 local jobs, provides a £1.4m boost to disadvantaged economies and generates a 3.5% annual return for the Government.

“But you cannot build without land and the willingness of a local landowner to make a site for affordable homes available. Just a small corner of a field close to, or adjoining, the existing village developed in partnership with the community and housing association, like English Rural, is all it takes. This Rural Exceptions approach works when other options can’t, by securing planning permission for affordable homes that benefit local people and the community.”

You can read Martin’s full blog on this topic here.

New energy efficient homes underway in Warwickshire

Rural housing specialists Warwickshire Rural Housing Association, in collaboration with New Meaning Training, recently held a passive house event on their site in Bearley, to showcase their latest low carbon, affordable homes.

Stratford-on-Avon District Council members and officers, were joined by other developers and housing associations, including Futures Housing Group, Orbit and Two Rivers Housing, to learn more about the Beattie Passive system as an option for building affordable homes.

It was also an opportunity for Warwickshire Rural Housing Association (WRHA) and developers Harper Group to share how social enterprise education provider, New Meaning Training (NMT) is making a difference on this development.

The seven homes, which are the realisation of a 20-year dream for the village and will be prioritised for local people, are being built using the high performance and low carbon Beattie Passive system. Each super-insulated home will also have solar panels and air source hot water and heating systems. This not only supports Stratford-on-Avon’s ambitious zero carbon plans, but will also mean much lower energy costs for the residents.

At the event, NMT director, David Lett shared how their inspiring programmes support and train young people – who didn’t engage with the traditional school system – to learn a trade, get qualifications, earn an independent living and gain confidence in themselves. He also explained how they are involved in this development: “Trainees and graduates from the New Meaning construction course are building the timber superstructure here in Bearley. It’s a great opportunity to put their new skills into practice.”

Councillor Ian Shenton, Portfolio Holder for Climate Change at Stratford-on-Avon District Council said: “It was great to see the progress on the Bearley passive homes. The low-carbon construction and innovative energy saving technologies support Stratford-on-Avon’s vision to be one of the UK's first carbon-neutral districts. And it was fantastic to learn that New Meaning have opened a new centre here in Stratford, where they will train more local young people in construction. To see a number of organisations working together to provide high quality, energy efficient affordable housing, whilst also teaching new skills, in a practical way, to those less well off or disadvantaged is a fantastic combination which I applaud and support wholeheartedly.”

You can find more information about these seven affordable homes at this link.

Housing Association Economic Impact Calculator updated

The National Housing Federation’s Local Economic Impact Calculator shows housing associations’ contribution to the productivity of local areas.

Housing associations are key drivers of economic growth and have a huge impact on the local communities where they operate, adding value to the UK economy and supporting thousands of jobs.

The calculator is a free, easy-to-use tool available to all members of the Federation. It allows housing associations to estimate the economic impact of:

  • Building new affordable homes in their area, simply by inputting a given number of homes.
  • Their day-to-day activity calculated either by the number of homes managed or turnover.
  • The activity of housing associations within a given area.

Data can be profiled by local authority area, combined authority area, Local Enterprise Partnership area or by English regions.

More information on the calculator is available here.

HRH The Princess Royal Opens English Rural’s Newest Affordable Rural Homes

HRH The Princess Royal visited the picturesque village of Dunsfold, Surrey on 7th October, to officially open English Rural’s new affordable rural housing development. Recently completed, the small development of eight new homes at‘Miller Lane’ provides four houses and two flats that will benefit local people. Two additional homes have been made available at Discounted Local Sale to cross-subsidise the affordable homes.

In a region where house values are 23 times the average income, the homes have been made available at rents that are affordable to local people living, working in, or with close family connections to the village. Built in partnership with the local community, involving Dunsfold Parish Council, Waverley Borough Council and English Rural, this is the third scheme to be built in the village by English Rural, the first being completed in 1992.

Set in a designated area of great landscape value, Dunsfold includes common land, a cricket club, church, country pub, post office and an award-winning, community run village shop. The shop raised a fantastic amount of money from members of the local community and via grants from the Plunkett Foundation, Surrey Community Action, Surrey County Council and Dunsfold Parish Council plus a linked loan from the Co-Op. Supporting local employment, the shop has previously been managed by several English Rural residents.

HRH The Princess Royal met with residents and viewed two of the affordable homes, before officially opening the development by planting a tree. The tree-planting also celebrated The Queen’s Green Canopy initiative, created to mark Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee in 2022 which invites people from across the United Kingdom to “Plant a tree for the Jubilee”.

Like many villages, Dunsfold has been affected by high house prices and lower-than-average wages, making it unaffordable for many local people to remain within their home communities close to family, work, and support networks. Planning restrictions have been agreed that will ensure the homes will always remain affordable and local people with a connection to Dunsfold will always take priority as residents.

Commenting on the visit, Martin Collett, English Rural’s Chief Executive said: “High-quality, affordable rural developments provide a secure and safe place for local people to live, in the communities they serve and support. This is English Rural’s third development in Dunsfold – the first being nearly 30 years ago. We are always pleased when villages invite us back. This not only highlights the continuing need for affordable homes but also demonstrates the trust they have in English Rural.”

You can read more on the development via this link.

Parish Council Guide to rural affordable housing just a click away

The new Parish Councillors’ Guide to Rural Affordable Housing is packed full of useful information about all stages of the affordable housing process, the organisations involved, funding and other matters. Produced by the Rural Housing Alliance, the Guide aims to demystify the process of getting rural affordable homes provided in rural communities and is available for free via this link.

Affordable Housing Grants autumn roadshow

Over 370 people attended the recent Homes England Affordable Housing Grants autumn roadshow, held online. Lots of information was provided around all elements of the programme including the contact details for Affordable Housing Growth Team Hubs for each area of the country. These are:

North - Helen Fielding:

Midlands - Tom Hawley:

South West - Versha Koria:

East & South East - Carol Cairns:

Homes to be Proud of

Rural Housing Alliance members, English Rural and Hastoe, have both featured in the summer edition of CPRE’s ‘Countryside Voices’ magazine outlining how they work with local communities to create energy-efficient, affordable and attractive housing. Alison Thompson, Deputy Development Director at English Rural, says: “The key to delivering rural housing that meets local need is partnership: between parish councils and developers, housing officers, community land trusts, rural housing enablers and the whole wider community.”

Ulrike Maccariello, Development Director at Hastoe, says: “We want our dwellings to include the best of modern standards, and to provide spacious, comfortable homes – but it’s also important that our developments reinforce the local identity.”

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

House prices and rent rising rapidly in rural areas

The BBC reports that the Office of National Statistics revealed that house prices rose up to three times faster in some rural areas compared to the national average in July.

Rising house prices and private rents mean that some low paid workers are at risk of being priced out of living in rural coastal areas, contributing to skill shortages in the tourism and hospitality industries that their local economies rely on.

House prices rising much above the UK average are seen particularly in North Devon (22.5%), Conwy (25.0%) and Richmondshire (21.4%).

Meanwhile, Vice reports that rural rent prices in the UK are rising four times faster than in cities, intensifying a countryside housing emergency that is hitting young, marginalised and disadvantaged people

Lettings prices have risen by 8.7 percent in the countryside in the last year driven up by a lack of housing stock in rural and suburban locations, with fewer homes coming onto the lettings market since the beginning of the pandemic.

Experts suggest that people working from home who are moving out of cities to seek more space in the countryside are exacerbating the issue.

Revitalising Rural: realising the vision

The Rural Services Network’s ‘Revitalising Rural: Realising the Vision’ campaign aims to set out a number of key asks of Government to help ensure rural areas are not left behind in levelling up England.  Public services in rural areas should be fairly funded to ensure that additional costs of delivering rural services are recognised and adequately funded.

The RSN is urging the Government to give rural communities the consideration they deserve in post-pandemic policy making. With equitable funding and support, people living outside major cities in England will be empowered to fully contribute to the country’s socio-economic recovery in the months and years to come.

All Government policies should be developed and implemented in ways which take into account the particular needs of rural communities and are designed to suit rural circumstances with local delivery wherever possible.

The campaign sets out key asks in a number of policy areas including rural transport, affordable housing, digital connectivity and access to health services. You can view all of the campaign documents and policy asks at this link.

The Rural Affordable Housing Chapter highlights key issues and challenges in the delivery of and access to affordable housing in rural areas, and sets out a number of asks focusing on:

  • Affordable housing quotas
  • Grant funding for rural areas
  • Community-led housing
  • Exception sites
  • Sale of affordable homes

The Rural Affordable Housing chapter can be viewed via this link.

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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