19 November 2018

Only planning reform can grow communities in a sustainable way

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA), a membership organisation for owners of land, property and business in rural England and Wales, has released a report revealing the barriers that stop our rural communities from growing.

The report: ‘Sustainable Villages – Making rural communities fit for the future’ explains how more than 2,000 villages are missing out on new affordable homes because they are classified as unsuitable for more houses.

This happens because many villages are not considered ready for growth when they are assessed against a range of local services. The CLA thinks that this assessment is flawed and reveals that only 18% of local authorities factor broadband into their calculations.

The CLA makes four recommendations to help local authorities support communities that are currently considered ‘unsustainable ‘ and the cycle of decline in these regions:

  • adopting criteria fit for the modern age;
  • implementing mandatory housing needs assessments;
  • continuing with windfall and small sites assessments;
  • introducing cross subsidies on Entry Level Exception Sites.

The National Federation of Builders (NFB) welcomes the CLA’s report, urging the Government to reform the planning process and help all ambitious communities grow.

Members of the House Builders Association (HBA), the house building division of the NFB, see this ‘cycle of decline’ described by the CLA every day. As local companies, they find it more difficult to hire staff locally as many skilled workers are moving to cities because they are priced out of their rural communities.

As more people leave their villages and towns for work, fewer people are left campaigning for affordable housing. This does not mean there are enough homes locally, but it does make it harder for councils to justify growth. This is then made worse when assessments do not factor in modern life, such as increasing numbers of people working at home. Richard Beresford, chief executive of the NFB, said:

“When a community wants and needs to grow, it should be allowed to. Planning shouldn’t say ‘you’re too small for new homes’. Clearly there’s a huge problem and the Government needs to fix it.”

Rico Wojtulewicz, senior policy advisor of the HBA, added:

“The CLA have proved that planning fails to cater for our modern rural communities. If the Government doesn’t take planning reform seriously, a whole rural generation will suffer from unaffordable housing and mass unemployment.”