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Landowners need support to resolve rural housing crisis, says CLA

House-building. Photo: Ian Nicholson/PA Wire

House-building. Photo: Ian Nicholson/PA Wire

Landowners willing to build and manage affordable homes in the countryside need more support to help solve a rural housing "crisis", according to business campaigners.

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) says landowners had the potential to inject much-needed life into East Anglia’s villages, supporting young families, local workers, and those seeking to downsize or retire.

But the group warned that not enough government support and incentives are currently being provided to landowners in order to encourage sites to be put forward.

CLA East regional director Ben Underwood said: “The capacity of landowners to help alleviate the acute shortage in homes in rural areas is an untapped resource.

“Landowners have strong multi-generational ties to their communities and are often local employers – they wish to sustain that community for future generations, and long-term investment in affordable housing is an excellent way of doing this.

“We do not advocate building all over our beautiful countryside, but rural areas need a range of housing types, tenures and sizes. Policies need to be introduced to encourage landowners to invest in the future prosperity of the countryside.

“Many have already made a commitment to their community by making available potential housing land to housing associations at a considerable undervalue for the delivery of affordable housing for local people. However, with Right to Buy there is little incentive for landowners to keep doing so if these properties will only be reverted to open market housing.”

Mr Underwood added that high house prices have had a significant impact on the rural economy, forcing young people to leave rural areas because they cannot afford to live there.

“It is essential we tackle this and stop these areas from becoming dormitory zones for commuters and holiday homes,” he said.

Chris Dady, chairman of the Norfolk branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), added: “CPRE Norfolk welcomes all initiatives that will enable affordable houses to be built that support rural communities in Norfolk. Used alongside such initiatives as the Prince’s Foundation BIMBY (Beauty in my Backyard) that allow local communities to get involved in the planning process, neighbourhood plans and local parish council initiatives it has our full support.

“The government needs to look seriously at, and support, all initiatives that support affordable as well as retirement homes for local people in our rural communities.”

A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: “We’ve got Britain building again delivering 293,000 affordable homes since 2010 with over 98,000 of these in rural areas.

“In addition to this, we’ve set out the largest affordable housing programme of any government since the 1970s, doubling the budget to £8bn to deliver 400,000 more homes.”

CASE STUDY: Holkham

The Holkham Estate is taking steps to rectify an acute shortage of affordable homes for people in the north Norfolk village.

As an agricultural estate, Holkham has historically accommodated a large, rural workforce. But while the area has continued appeal for second and retirement homes, a Housing Needs Survey carried out earlier this year revealed a lack of smaller, affordable rented housing to support the community in the future.

The estate’s ambition is to build 20–30 new houses which are not intended to be sold and would only be made available for rent to meet the existing needs of village residents, with people employed locally prioritised.

James Bracey, general manager of land and property for Holkham Estate, said: “Many rural villages like Holkham do not have a defined settlement boundary so do not meet the normal requirements for a local plan housing allocation. Therefore we need to justify an exception to policy.

“An exception could provide much-needed housing which would help both the estate and people from surrounding local settlements. A well-designed low carbon development will enhance our outstandingly important heritage asset by helping to conserve the settlement as well as supporting the local community.”

Are you affected by a lack of rural housing? Contact chris.hill@archant.co.uk

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