Fears developer charge change could “devastate” rural communities in Norfolk

Jon Clemo, chief executive of the Norfolk rural community council.Photo: Bill Smith

Jon Clemo, chief executive of the Norfolk rural community council.Photo: Bill Smith - Credit: Archant © 2011

Plans to let developers building less than 10 homes off the hook when it comes to providing infrastructure and affordable homes will be 'devastating' for rural communities, campaigners in Norfolk have claimed.

Norfolk Rural Community Council has warned the recently announced move, which would change the rules which currently require developers to provide contributions, such as affordable homes or playgrounds, to offset the impact of construction and development, could stop developers building cheaper homes in rural locations.

But housing minister Brandon Lewis said small builders had been hampered by previous charges, and it had undermined the building industry, seen jobs cut and forced up the cost of housing.

He claimed the changes would mean new homes would be built, including more 'low-cost and market housing'.

'The changes have also cut the cost of building homes, for example, as much as £12,000 on a site of just eight homes in West Norfolk,' he added.

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But Jon Clemo, chief executive of Norfolk Rural Community Council, said that while there might be an increase in house-building in rural areas as a result of the changes, developers might be more motivated to build only the kind of housing that obtains the greatest profits.

'The result could be a downturn in the proportion of low-cost housing available for local young people and lower income families to buy.

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'Ultimately ensuring young people can live and work locally is critical to the success of key areas of the economy such as health and social care and tourism. It is also vital in keeping our communities vibrant and inclusive,' he added.

Groups including Norfolk Rural Commuity Council and Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE) ACRE had called on the Government to exempt all sites in communities with a population under 3,000.

'Housing is a major issue for low paid employees in rural Norfolk where higher house prices are combined with generally lower wages. This, combined with the very high proportion of second home ownership in the North and North-West of the county makes both affordability and availability real problems' added Mr Clemo.

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