Memorandum by Country Land and Business
Association (SHC 17)
1. The Country Land and Business Association
(CLA) welcomes the opportunity to respond to the Housing, Planning,
Local Government and the Regions Select Committee Inquiry into
planning and sustainable housing and communities
2. The CLA represents 45,000 members in
England and Wales, who between them operate around 250 different
types of businesses in rural areas covering a range of activities
including agriculture, forestry, tourism and other commercial
interests. The CLA is in a unique position in representing a broad
cross-section of interests within the rural economy. As people
who live and work in rural areas, the CLA members have a keen
and direct interest in the continued prosperity of rural areas.
The current debate on housing, particularly affordable housing,
potentially has important repercussions on rural communities and
the rural economy therefore our interest in this paper needs little
3. The CLA welcomes the commitment to provide
an affordable home for all. However, there is little specific
mention of rural housing problems. It seems most money is targeted
at the South East Key Worker problem. Although there is no reason
why key workers in the South East could not be in a rural location,
it does not provide extra funds to the Housing Corporation Rural
Programme or indeed an incentive to rural housing in general.
4. We are concerned about the commitments
to Green Belt, whilst we agree that urban sprawl should be checked,
it is important that rural communities in Green Belt can survive,
this requires a more positive approach to Green Belt policy and
guidance, as detailed in our recent report "A Living Working
5. The CLA supports the the need to provide
balanced thriving rural communities. This involves an appropriate
level of housing, transport and services. What the people who
live and work in the countryside do not want to see is:
Excessive requirements for housing
as part of the national extrapolations of housing need, with disproportionately
large housing developments on greenfield sites, the edge of rural
towns and villages. Such developments absorb resources, and put
pressure on schools and other local services. Doubling the size
of a village or town, for example, simply does not work. An assessment
of rural needs must lie behind decisions on housing allocation
in the countryside.
Excessively large economic or infrastructure
projects that take up valuable greenfield sites, water resources
and other services.
Such projects then crowding out locally
generated development or much needed local housing, which is refused
planning consent because local populations feel sated with development.
There is a need for a mix of housing,
low cost and market priced, owner occupied and rented social and
6. The CLA supports the principle of mixed
use development and believes that such an approach can be achieved
in rural areas. We consider that some growth in housing in rural
areas is necessary and achievable, what would not be acceptable
is the grafting onto villages or towns of disproportionate housing
developments, especially when they are not accompanied by proper
transport, education, health and recreation services. In addition,
it is important that the issue of design is addressed to ensure
that new housing in the development in rural areas respects the
character and quality of those areas.
7. It is important to recognise the effects
of high house prices in rural areas and the implications of this
phenomenon on local communities and achieving sustainable rural
communities. One reason why house prices are currently inflated
is due to restrictive planning policies and with tightly drawn
rural settlement boundaries that makes development plan scarce
and therefore a high cost. A more flexible planning system that
recognises rural housing needs can assist in overcoming this issue.
However, planning alone will not solve this problem and the solution
will require a range of measures.
8. The CLA considers that the demand for
housing and the place where land is available will not necessarily
coincide, hence there is a need for flexibility in the approach
to be adopted. This will include the distribution of development
between towns, villages and possibly new settlements as appropriate
to particular areas of the country. It is important to realise
that part of the household growth figures is locally generated
demand in the countryside, any approach to meeting housing needs
should primarily accommodate this demand.
9. At the same time we believe the release
of isolated greenfield sites for development has repercussions
which extend far beyond the economic consequences for the owner(s)
of the released land. Local views are more and more polarised
on issues relating to the development of rural areas, and extensive
consultation will have to take place at the local level to ensure
that development takes place where it is needed, in ways which
are acceptable to the local population.
10. In market towns, there is a considerable
amount of residential accommodation available over shops that
are standing empty at present. The towns are deserted at night.
If the financial incentives existed for the owners of the shops
to modernise this accommodation it would not only provide much-needed
low cost accommodation for young people, but would revitalise
the small towns at the same time
11. The CLA and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation
(JRF) commissioned a survey and report in 1996 by the Centre for
Housing Policy, York University, into rural housing. ("Private
renting in rural areas." University of York).
12. In this work with the Joseph Rowntree
Foundation, we have concentrated on the role of the private rented
sector and the desirability of policies to improve supply and
flexibility within the market at acceptable cost. This is described
13. The report established the positive
contribution made by the private rented sector in rural areas,
which meets the needs of many people, but not all. The report
also determined that while the number of privately rented homes
is not likely to reduce on the basis of the present law, there
is no real prospect of an increase. Drawing on this work, and
having regard to other factors, the CLA concludes that a number
of issues need to be addressed if some of the 3.8 million new
households over the next 20 years are to be accommodated within
the private rented sector in rural areas. These include recognition
the rural private rented sector makes
a major contribution to housing in the countryside;
the availability of private rented
housing which forms part of a larger rural property appears to
be static, and as things stand there is little prospect of this
part of the sector expanding because investment returns are generally
there is a real risk that any increased
regulation of rent or term would affect confidence in the market
and reduce the number of properties available;
there is a need to provide a mechanism
to ensure that the standard of rural housing is maintained with
a role for improvement grants;
the need to provide accommodation
for local people on low incomes is far from satisfied and constitutes
a major problem.
14. The CLA considers that current housing
policy has not developed in a way that will solve rural housing
needs. Without affordable housing in the countryside, not only
are people excluded (many ending up, against their will, relocated
in urban areas) but also businesses and whole communities suffer.
15. We are concerned that the current approach
in PPG 3, ie the sequential approach, while achieving its urban
concentration aim, will mean that little residential development
could occur in rural areas. This would ultimately be detrimental
to the economy of these areas and the Government's aim of achieving
sustainable rural communities. In addition, we have doubts whether
local authorities will have the resources to carry out the brownfield
assessment adequately. If these surveys are not carried out efficiently
the whole principle of the sequential test will be undermined.
16. The CLA acknowledges that PPG 3 represents
existing planning policy with regard to affordable housing and
makes it clear that affordable housing is an important material
planning consideration. It emphasises that the planning system
has a key role to play in assessing needs and ensuring that they
are met within new development. This guidance will strengthen
the capability of planners to control the type and affordability
of new housing, particularly in rural areas. However, the current
approach to providing rural affordable housing is failing to meet
rural needs; this seems to be confirmed by recent statements from
the Countryside Agency. "Exceptions sites", though successful
to a degree have only brought forward a small percentage of sites.
In addition, the provision of sites obtained by planning gain
is negligible, due to the size of housing schemes in rural areas.
There is a need for an adequate policy that will allow a satisfactory
level of affordable rural housing.
17. We were disappointed that the revision
of PPG 3, in 2000, did not take the opportunity to address the
above problem and suggest other imaginative and innovative ways
of achieving affordable housing in rural areas. We would suggest
the following as a starting point:
Local planning authorities still
seem to place too greater weight on other factors, such as environmental
protection when considering exception sites. There is no priority
given to the housing need in such circumstances.
There is a case for land to be allocated
for affordable housing. Such a policy will need to be carefully
worded to ensure that occupation remains as affordable housing.
It must also ensure that it does not restrict the provision of
land for affordable housing, due to increased hope value by allocating
the site. There may be merit in looking at the proposal put forward
by the Countryside Agency for "Sites of Social Diversity".
Though we would stress that this proposal should not be at the
expense of current exception sites policy, it should complement
An increase in the population of
villages where local authorities can set appropriate thresholds
for affordable housing may be appropriate, possibly doubling the
There needs to be a clear definition
of affordable. This will vary from region to region. There may
be a need for a mix of affordable homes, to rent and low cost
to buy these issues need definition.
Affordable housing needs to be for
the right people in the right location. This means having up to
date local needs surveys to ensure that the housing meets a specific
rural need. These surveys need to readily available to landowners
and providers of affordable accommodation. The policy will fail
if affordable housing is provided and occupied by people who are
relocated out or urban areas to meet its housing problem.
Affordable housing needs to meet
a range of house types. Such housing is not necessarily small
two bed terraces; family homes need to be provided. Again this
relates to an up to date local needs survey.
Affordable housing is part of a wider
debate in rural areas. There needs to be a close link to adequate
employment opportunities and services such as shops and schools.
18. Affordable housing policies must be
monitored by local authorities. This allows changes in need to
be addressed, meeting the Government's objective of the right
housing in the right place at the right time.
19. CLA members have made sites available
for low cost schemes. It should be stressed, however, that the
proposals of the previous Government to legislate for a right
to buy rural Housing Association stock affected the confidence
that such donated sites would remain perpetually available to
the social housing sector. If more sites are to come forward the
Government will need to convince owners that land given for social
housing will be protected for this purpose.
20. The CLA supports the current recognition
of the advice on resale restrictions and right to buy in rural
areas. However, we feel there may be merit in increasing the threshold
limit from 3,000 population, this would allow some larger settlements
to retain their affordable housing stock. Although we have not
researched a specific figure we would, for the purposes of debate,
suggest doubling this threshold.
21. The CLA welcomes the improvements suggested
in the Rural White Paper (Our Countryside: The Future. A Fair
Deal for Rural England, 2000) to increase funding and provision
of affordable housing, however we question whether this will be
enough to meet the identified need. There is serious under-funding
in the provision of affordable housing in rural areas. The Housing
Corporations approved development programme has been increased
to around 6% in rural areas but this only brings the figure back
to a level it was at a few years ago. There is a need to continue
to increase this resource.
22. We welcome the increase in homes to
1,600 by 2003-04, as identified in the Rural White Paper, and
we would encourage the Housing Corporation, as the Government's
Housing Agency, to ensure this figure is met.
23. When setting investment priorities,
we suggest care is taken when setting indicators. We continue
to argue that there must be a move away from incorrect indicators
of affluence such as car ownership. More detailed site-specific
indicators must be used.
24. The CLA supports the need for sustainable,
mixed and inclusive communities and agree that this can only be
achieved if strategies are based on all stakeholders.
25. Whilst we agree that strategies reflect
the Rural White Paper by considering flexible local transport
arrangements, this must include recognition that transport in
rural areas does not only involve a range of public transport
modes. The use of the car is a necessity not a luxury in many
cases, while there is also a significant proportion that has no
access to a car. Such cases add weight to the argument that the
housing strategy must be flexible to provide homes in more remote
settlements and not just large local service centres. Thereby
allowing people to remain in the communities they are familiar
26. The CLA fully supports the needs for
housing strategies to be based upon up to date needs surveys.
We wonder whether there is a place for the Housing Corporation
to specifically encourage local authorities to carry out such
27. Our final point on social housing relates
to fiscal issues. New small business ventures are hampered often
by the lack of affordable dwellings for employees of rural businesses.
The Government should signal further encouragement to the construction
of low-cost social or community housing by providing a deferment
of any capital gains where, and to the extent that, those gains
are re-invested in the construction, re-construction, alternation
or improvement of assets that become social or community housing.
Perhaps defining the latter by reference to the occupation of
the dwelling and whether the housing is affordable.
11 October 2002