Farmland potential ‘ignored’ for housing

Fewer affordable homes are being built in small villages because local authorities are continuing to ignore the potential of developing farmland, according to the CLA.

Friday, 1st February 2019, 13:00 pm
Updated Thursday, 31st January 2019, 12:18 pm
Tim Breitmeyer

New government data shows that despite a 17% increase in the amount of affordable homes built in rural communities across England last year, 143 fewer homes were built on rural exception sites, land which is not usually granted planning permission but where affordable development is allowed.

The CLA, which represents landowners, farmers and rural businesses, said that if rural exception sites are not used to their full potential, there is little hope of solving the acute shortage of rural housing.

President Tim Breitmeyer said: “Rural exception sites are a key means of providing affordable homes in rural areas where a landowner provides land at below market value to build affordable homes for local people.

“However, the latest figures show how drastically underused they are. Our own report into making villages sustainable for the future set out ways to ensure local authorities use all the mechanisms available to deliver new rural affordable homes. They must be proactive in order to breathe new life into our rural communities and help to solve the rural housing crisis.”

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To encourage the building of much needed affordable homes in rural areas, the CLA has called on the Government and local authorities to:

l Change sustainability criteria for rural settlements from an assessment of services the community has, to what it needs. This outdated assessment of the facilities and services that a rural settlement needs rarely takes into account broadband as important when considering areas for development. One step to achieving this change is to make housing needs assessments mandatory.

l Allow cross subsidy on Entry Level Exception Sites. Allowing a small amount of open market housing on these sites ensures viability for the landowner so that sites can be bought forward and developed.

l Exempt properties provided as affordable homes from inheritance tax. 52% of CLA members say they would be more willing to build and manage affordable homes for rent for local people if the value of the housing was conditionally exempt from inheritance tax while being let at an affordable rent.

l Enforce up-to-date Local Plans. Between 30-40% of local authorities still do not have up-to-date adopted Local Plans to deliver much needed housing. Even those with adopted plans do not provide sufficient detail to drive the delivery of local housing in small rural settlements.

l Formalise the process for landowners to manage affordable homes. Issues can arise when landowners want to build and manage affordable housing themselves. If the Government were to introduce a standard Section 106 agreement to allow this, it would give local authorities greater confidence to grant planning consent.