Action urged to boost rural homes

marksimonbrown mark at
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 
government-backed group. 
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. 

'Restricted supply' 

But other groups, such as people retiring to the countryside, are 
causing concerns. 

"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
The Guardian 

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 
environmental standards."

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 
Press Association 
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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