Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government
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Government backs rural communities with best plans for the future

Housing Minister John Healey and Rural Minister Dan Norris yesterday backed councils with cash and support to kickstart plans to build homes people can afford where they want to live, and develop rural areas to meet the needs of local people.

Councils with the best proposals for rural towns and villages will be given specialist advice to develop masterplans for new neighbourhoods of high quality housing that will include green spaces, commercial and business premises, shops and services. The new neighbourhoods will make the most of existing buildings, help provide homes for local people and help rural businesses who often find it difficult to recruit and keep staff priced out of rural communities.

A £1m fund jointly provided by Communities and Local Government and Defra will provide expert assistance and training on design, and help councils work closely with local communities to develop masterplans, identifying best practice that will provide a model for rural authorities across the country.

John Healey also announced a consultation on proposals to encourage rural landowners to release more land that will be used to build affordable housing for local people. Proposals include allowing local landowners to retain the freehold on the land, with housing associations paying an upfront or annual payment for the lease.

These announcements are the latest stage in the Government’s plans to help rural communities thrive by providing more affordable housing and greater freedom to develop strong local economies. 

John Healey said:

"A lack of affordable housing in the countryside can be a real problem for rural communities. That’s why we are determined to help young families find homes they can afford where they want to live, and help rural businesses recruit and retain local staff who will not be priced out of the countryside. 

"Local authorities should use the powers they have to plan for new homes and in rural towns and villages. These proposals will give councils the flexibility and expertise they need to help provide affordable homes for local people that are built to a high standard."
 
Rural Affairs Minister Dan Norris said:

"Masterplanning encourages a higher quality of life by ensuring rural communities develop in a sensible and sensitive way. It takes into account the need for green space and infrastructure services such as sustainable drainage, water and safe road layouts - as well as schools, shops, parks and housing to meet the needs of all income levels.  The rural economy plays a significant part in the national economy and by planning for its development, we are planning for the growth of the whole economy.  We are delighted to  co-sponsor this project as it ties in so closely with Defra’s aim to secure a healthy environment in which current and future generations can prosper."

Planning for rural economic expansion and sustainable transport will enable more people in the countryside to work locally and use local services to promote strong rural communities. An implementation plan showing progress against the Government’s response to the Matthew Taylor Review in March 2009 will also be published today.

Matthew Taylor MP, who produced the Taylor Review into rural housing and economies said:

"Today marks a significant step in the implementation of my report, 'Living Working Countryside'. The masterplanning competition lays the foundations for future growth of market towns and other communities to be more attractive, vibrant and sustainable than the piecemeal estate by estate development of the past. For smaller communities, the consultation on incentives to rural landowners to offer land for affordable housing for local people will help many more villages remain vibrant communities and help keep open village schools and shops. 
 
"These two announcements build on earlier changes already announced, including the completely revised planning policy statement on economic development (PPS4). As today's report on progress shows, Government is taking significant action to address the issues facing rural communities identified in my review. I hope that every rural planning authority will work with their rural communities to make these changes work."

Notes to editors

1. The £1m support will be spent over two years (2009/10 – 2010/11) and is being funded by Communities and Local Government and the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

2. A ‘masterplan’ is a long-term, coordinated strategy for the development of an area. Bids for the masterplanning fund will be assessed against how they:

  • fit with local planning policy;
  • meet local housing needs;
  • allow for expansion of the local economy;
  • are supported by the local community; and
  • are supported by resources from the local planning authority

3. The Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) and Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) will be involved in assessing bids and in administering the fund. The closing date for bids is 15 January. A copy of the prospectus can be found at:  www.communities.gov.uk/publications/planningandbuilding/ruralfundprospectus

4. These announcements are the latest measures to deal with real issues of affordability in rural areas. In August this year the Government boosted support for Community Land Trusts (CLTs), private bodies that own or control land and assets for the benefit of the community. More information on support for CLTs can be found at: www.communities.gov.uk/news/corporate/1310437

5. The latest figures from the Commission for Rural Communities (CRC) in March 2009 show that the lowest house prices in rural areas are 7.4 times the lowest annual incomes, compared to 5.5 times the lowest annual incomes in urban areas. The average house is now over £40,000 more expensive in rural than in urban areas.

6. The consultation on proposals to incentivise landowners to bring forward additional land for rural affordable housing will close on 18 February 2010.  A copy of the consultation can be found at: www.communities.gov.uk/publications/planningandbuilding/incentivisingconsultation

7. The Matthew Taylor Implementation Plan published today can be found at:  www.communities.gov.uk/publications/planningandbuilding/taylorimplementationplan

8. Matthew Taylor, MP for Truro and St Austell, conducted a review on how land use and planning can better support rural business and deliver affordable housing. His report Living Working Countryside was published in July 2008. A copy of the report can be found at:  www.communities.gov.uk/publications/planningandbuilding/livingworkingcountryside)

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