Action urged to boost rural homes
mark at tlio.org.uk
Wed May 17 10:50:44 BST 2006
Action urged to boost rural homes
BBC News Online
Wednesday, 17 May 2006
A big increase in subsidised housing to stop low-earners being
priced out of rural areas in England is being called for by a
A report by the Affordable Rural Housing Commission says at least
11,000 new homes a year must be built.
It suggests a new tax on second homes and more restrictions on the
right to buy council houses in rural areas.
Without such action, rural communities will be reduced to retirement
towns and "dormitories" for the wealthy, it adds.
The commission has also emphasised the obligation on national park
authorities to play their part in building affordable homes, as well
as the involvement of planners and rural communities themselves.
Commission chair Elinor Goodman said: "We recommend that 11,000
affordable homes need to be built. That's equivalent to around six
new houses a year in each rural ward in England.
"Villages and country towns must be allowed to evolve in the way
they did in the past - they can't just be preserved in aspic.
"Most can probably absorb some more houses, as long as they are in
scale and character and maintain the identity of individual
She said the issue of second homes was not a major problem across
the country, but was a real concern in some areas where there was a
disproportionately high number.
Professor Martin Shucksmith, also of the commission, told BBC News
that commuters buying up property is the main difficulty.
But other groups, such as people retiring to the countryside, are
"The problem is a mixture of these new groups coming in with the
money that they have and on the other side, the very restricted
supply which arises by choice really because the planning system
restricts the amount of houses that are built in rural England."
Private development is also needed, to provide the first step on the
housing ladder and to generate cross-subsidies to pay for the
affordable housing, said the commission.
It was set up last year in response to widespread concern over the
lack of affordable homes in rural areas.
Use forests for affordable housing, says AM
Montgomeryshire AM, Mick Bates, has called on the Labour Assembly
Government to explore the option of freeing up Forestry Commission
land to build affordable housing.
Speaking at the National Assembly he said:
"The Assembly Government doesn't just own buildings it owns land.
In fact it owns 38% of the Welsh woodlands.
"The affordable housing crisis in Mid Wales has hit crisis point.
House prices have risen by more than 157% in the last 6 years. At
the same time average household earnings have remained at just
"I'm not saying we should build housing on all the Forestry
Commission land, but we must examine the possibility of freeing some
of it up to help young people buy their own home.
"We must explore the option of using Community Land Trusts to
achieve this aim. The future of our rural Wales relies on young
people being able to afford homes in the communities they grew up
in. We must look at all avenues to make the dream of an affordable
home a reality."
Ministers order green revamp of developers' planned new town
James Meikle and John Vidal
Wednesday May 17, 2006
Ministers are planning the first eco-friendly town built from
scratch and a string of low-carbon "green villages" to try to prove
that big housing developments across southern England can be self-
The ministers are making developers revamp plans for a 10,000-home
town five miles north-west of Cambridge to achieve 50% reductions in
energy consumption and mains water use compared with conventional
They will also today announce a study into how 120,000 homes, to be
built along the Thames Gateway to the east of London, can set the
trend in coping with climate change. The long-term ambition is for
the entire gateway to be carbon neutral in its impact even if some
homes and businesses fall short. That will mean helping to cut
travel, providing local employment instead of acting as satellites
for the capital, and possibly being a green technology hub from
which Britain can export ideas.
Ministers hope to harness ideas for more "utopian" urban
communities - exemplified, for instance, by Dontang, an eco-city of
500,000 people planned for a Shanghai suburb - and boost demand for
photovoltaic cells, solar panels and domestic wind turbines so that
the costs of such renewable energy equipment start to plummet.
The developments should, they believe, also help high-volume
housebuilders to raise standards, first through voluntary codes but
later by regulation, and make green technology affordable for
everyone. The plans will be outlined by Yvette Cooper, Ruth Kelly's
deputy at the new Department for Communities and Local Government,
when she addresses the Green Alliance thinktank with the environment
secretary, David Miliband.
They will seek to establish the government's green credentials in
the face of David Cameron's repositioning of the Conservatives on
environmental issues while stressing that ministers will not be
thrown off course from adding to housing in Britain. They are
determined to see 200,000 homes a year being built within 10 years -
40,000-50,000 more than at present - and are making the issue one of
social justice, since without the rise, they say, prices will
continue to soar and home ownership will increasingly become the
province of the rich.
Ms Cooper told the Guardian: "This is not about symbolic gestures.
It is about serious long-term plans to substantially change the way
we build and develop. It would be easy to use climate change as a
reason to stop development but it would be unsustainable when we
need homes for the the next generation. We need to take the
opportunity of new homes to change the market and improve our
The proposals for Northstowe, near Cambridge, are being drawn up by
English Partnerships, which owns half the land, and the private
company Gallagher. The scheme will go through its planning stages
over the next year with building possibly starting late in 2007.
Among the ministerial demands for the buildings are good insulation,
solar energy devices such as roof-mounted collectors for hot water,
large windows on south-facing walls, water recycling, water-
efficient fittings, and porous paving to keep rainwater in the
ground rather than running into drains.
Rural tax urged for second homes
Wednesday May 17, 2006 8:08 AM
The Government has been urged to look at using taxes to stem
the "negative impact" of second homes in rural "honeypot" areas.
The call comes from the independent Affordable Rural Housing
Commission, in its recent report to the Government. Restrictions and
changes to the Right to Buy legislation in country areas could also
help to ensure that subsidised homes remain in the affordable sector.
The Commission, chaired by former Channel 4 Political Editor Elinor
Goodman, also says there should be greater emphasis on the economic
and social duty of National Park Authorities to encourage the
building of affordable rural homes. The Commission says rural
communities need a major increase in subsidised housing if the next
generation is not to be priced out of the countryside.
The report sets out practical actions that the Commission believes
should be taken forward across all levels of government, voluntary
and private sectors, if much needed low cost homes are to be built.
But it warns, that without such action, rural communities are being
undermined as many people on lower, and even average incomes are
leaving the countryside to find a home they can afford.
The 12 member Commission calls for a minimum of eleven thousand
affordable houses to be built each year in market towns and villages
to meet identified need. This is to be part of an approach that
allows these communities to evolve and provide homes for people from
all walks of life.
The Commission was set up last July in response to widespread
concern about the implications for rural communities in England of a
shortage of affordable housing to rent or buy. It aims to come up
with practical solutions that would improve access to affordable
housing for those who live and work in rural areas.
Elinor Goodman, chair of the Commission said "If we don't act now,
more and more people will be priced out of the countryside - leaving
rural communities to increasingly become dormitories for the better
off and places where people go to retire or for the weekend. This,
in turn, will undermine the social fabric of rural life.
"Our investigation has shown us that much good work is already being
done. We've seen how affordable housing can improve the overall
quality of a village and underpin its future. But to meet the scale
of housing need in rural communities, we recommend that 11,000
affordable homes need to be built.
"Since we were set up, the Government has announced changes to the
planning system, which go some way to addressing the points made to
us during our inquiry. What is needed now is for all those involved
to embrace these changes and give rural housing the priority it
"We have looked at the issue of second homes and concluded that they
are not a major problem across the country. But they are a matter of
real concern in some communities, where there is a
disproportionately high number and we recommend ways of mitigating
their impact locally. The need for rented and low cost homes is
spreading and the main solution is to provide more affordable
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