We need affordable rural homes

This week is #RuralHousingWeek and we have been considering some of the issues and challenges rural communities face when it comes to housing.
Photo, Hastoe

Photo, Hastoe

We firmly believe that genuinely affordable housing is the bedrock of a thriving, living countryside,
but we are troubled by the fact that house prices are seven times average earnings in rural areas,
compared with 5.9 times in urban areas.
Rural vs Urban
In fact in Sevenoaks average house prices are 10.5 times average salary and in Tunbridge Wells 10.3 times.
Agricultural and other rural workers’ annual earnings are far lower (average £19,700 compared with £26,900 urban) which makes it even more difficult for people to live in the villages where they grew up or where they work.
CPRE is calling for:
  • Local communities should be empowered through neighbourhood planning while housing policy should be “rural proofed” to deliver what the countryside needs: high-quality, affordable housing.
  • The government must ensure rural areas, including areas of natural beauty and national parks, are exempt from the forced sale of council homes.
  • Empower small and medium-sized enterprise builders with local knowledge to provide affordable homes in rural areas.
  • The Government must focus on the delivery of the right housing in the right places.

Housing and Planning Bill – some good news

Housing and Planning Bill – Affordable rural homes

Due to the low number of affordable homes and the high cost of property in rural areas, CPRE has been vigorously campaigning to protect affordable housing for those on lower incomes in the countryside.

The Housing and Planning Bill reached report stage in the House of Lords last Monday (11 April). Lords debated amendments concerning affordable rural housing, namely: excluding ‘starter homes’ from rural exception sites; excluding rural areas from the forced sale of council homes; and excluding rural areas from the extension of the right-to-buy from rural areas.

Starter homes

After lengthy discussions and valuable contributions from a number of Lords, including Lord Best and Lord Cameron of Dillington, we are pleased to report that the Government conceded that new approaches are required on both exception sites and council homes in rural areas to protect affordable housing provision in rural areas. The Government will disclose its proposed amendments along these lines at the bill’s Third Reading next week.

The Government’s willingness to negotiate these terms is very welcome, and we look forward to seeing the detail put forward.

Housing and Planning Bill – Neighbourhood right of appeal

CPRE has long campaigned for the Government to introduce a limited neighbourhood right of appeal. This would enable local communities to appeal against approved but speculative planning applications where they conflicted with a made or well-advanced neighbourhood plan.

On Wednesday 20 April Baroness Parminter (Lib Dem) spoke forcefully when proposing that this instrument be introduced to the Housing and Planning Bill. Baroness Parminter argued that an amendment introducing a neighbourhood right of appeal would ensure that it was easier to build consensus in local communities behind the development we need.

Kent aeria photo by Vicky Ellis

Kent aerial photo by Vicky Ellis

Despite the efforts of Government to oppose the amendment, Lords from across the House spoke in support and the amendment was subsequently passed by 251 contents to 194 not-contents. With Civic Voice and the National Association of Local Councils (NALC), we must thank many peers, including Lords Best, Taylor, Kennedy and Marlesford, for their support.

Even though the Government was defeated, the amendment is very likely to be debated and opposed when the Bill goes back to the Commons. As a number of Conservative MPs have supported the right of appeal in the past, including Nick Herbert and Sir Oliver Heald QC, we look forward to the next parliamentary discussions on this matter.

April 25th 2016

Goodbye and thank you from Brian Lloyd

We said goodbye to Senior Planner Brian Lloyd on Friday. He had worked for CPRE Kent for eight years and transformed the way we dealt with local plans and planning applications and issues. As well as making a major contribution to the plan making process across the county he was involved with neighbourhood planning and advised, trained and helped parish councils.

Brian and his partner Jean, photo by Paul Buckley

Brian and his partner Jean, photo by Paul Buckley

brian 3

Brian said: “A big thank you to everyone that came along to my leaving party on Friday and to those that contributed towards my leaving gifts – a camera and membership of Kent County Cricket Club for 2016. This was extremely generous, and most unexpected, as were the lovely flowers presented to Jean. It was wonderful to see so many people who had travelled from all corners of the County to send me off.  I am really looking forward to having time to do the things I have not been able to, especially when the better weather comes, and spending more time at cricket will most definitely hit the spot. It has been a privilege to meet and work with so many people who feel so passionately about Kent’s countryside, and it’s has been inspiring that so many people give so much time to CPRE and their communities to try and ensure that future generations can enjoy it as we have been able to. I wish you all well and I am sure that I will see many of you again in the future.”

Hilary Newport presents Brian with his gifts, photo Paul Buckley

Hilary Newport presents Brian with his gifts, photo Paul Buckley