2,000 villages overlooked for affordable homes

According to new research, over 2,000 villages are missing out on new affordable homes because they are classified as unsuitable for growth by the local planning process.

The Country Land and Business Association analysed 70 Local Plans from the most rural local authorities, finding that 2,154 villages across England are currently judged to be unsustainable in terms of the delivery of affordable homes being highly restricted or not permitted in these communities, further exacerbating the rural housing crisis.

The study reveals that Cornwall tops the list of areas with the most villages deemed unsustainable at 213, followed by Wiltshire at 168 and Central Lincolnshire with 132.

The CLA’s report, Sustainable Villages – making rural communities fit for the future, argues that planning criteria must be updated to reflect how people access services in the 21st century and encourages local authorities to be more proactive in identifying the housing needs of small rural communities. For example, just 18 per cent of local authorities factor in broadband when assessing the sustainability of rural settlements, despite the range of services digital connectivity can facilitate, whether grocery shopping online or ordering prescriptions.

The report also calls on the Government to step in to address the housing needs of those communities cut off from the Local Plan by requiring a housing needs assessment in villages not allocated any housing.

Tim Breitmeyer, CLA president, said: “Sustainable development is not just for towns and cities. Finding and promoting sustainable solutions for rural communities is vital to the long-term vitality of the countryside. Current practices mean small settlements are dependent on very proactive local authorities to meet their needs. Although Cornwall tops the list of the most unsustainable villages, it is in fact an excellent example of a local authority actively addressing the needs of small rural communities despite the classification. Other rural local authorities should follow this lead and use all the mechanisms available to deliver affordable housing.

“Updating rural planning policy to include connectivity in sustainability assessments means English villages will not be trapped in analogue when the rest of the world is in the digital age and can access much of the housing they desperately need.”

Martin Tett, Housing spokesman for the Local Government Association, said: “Councils are committed to tackling the housing crisis and delivering the right homes in the right places with the necessary local services and infrastructure. Crucially, this includes councils working with their communities to develop and agree Local Plans, setting out their vision for developments where they live.

“As every street, village, town and city is different and will have different levels of need and opportunity for housing growth, it should be for councils working with communities to determine how and where new homes are built.”