Princess Anne’s(and CPRE’s) Niavity on Village Housing

Princess Anne has fallen for the false ‘spits and spots’ of rural housing argument the conservatives fell for before the last election.

Sky News

New homes should be built in existing villages and market towns instead of as part of sprawling new developments of up to 15,000 plots, the Princess Royal has said.

She argued it would be better for existing rural communities to take the brunt of the 240,000 new homes needed each year.

Her comments will add fuel to the political debate over how to provide the number of homes needed without damaging the countryside.

Nick Clegg called recently for the Government to be “honest and upfront” about plans to build garden cities in the South East.

The Deputy Prime Minister said that planned cities were a better option than piecemeal developments.

But the Princess, speaking as patron of the English Rural Housing Trust, said: “Is it really necessary to only think in terms of large-scale developments where you might add 10,000 or 15,000 in a block, where you require infrastructure to be installed?”

She suggested it would be more efficient to build small scale developments in existing communities: “Maybe it isn’t such good value if you have to build in the facilities that need to go with it.

“You will need a new school, you will need new shops, you will need to create a community centre. But for many of the small-scale developments you already have that.”

In a speech at a housing conference in Cheltenham, she added: “240,000 houses sounds an awful lot until we identify the amount of villages and market towns there are.”

Ok over the next 15 years we need nationally to plan for 3.75 million new homes from household formation plus a 1 million home backlog (approximately of course), for sake of argument lets say around half of that is identified already in development plans and another 10% occurs through windfalls.  If you divide that amongst England’s roughly 10,000 villages thats around 230 houses per village.  Ive been doing similar calculations since the 2007 Housing Green Paper and warning that unless we have large scale growth areas it would mean the swamping of English Villages and warned thats exactly what we would see with the NPPF if, as as happened, it also cancelled Ecotowns and Growth areas – now ask yourselves is that just what we have seen?  Have we not seen planning application for in total several hundred homes now swamping villages.

Sean Spiers in the Telegraph

Shaun Spiers, the chief executive of CPRE, said: “These are welcome words from Princess Anne. We want a living countryside, not a countryside of commuter villages or retirement ghettoes.’

Bit I thought the CPRE were supposed to be protecting the countryside?

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Guardian – Relaxing Planning in National Parks will Lead to Disaster

Guardian – Sarah Wollaston

A seismic change may be about to rock our national parks and other areas of outstanding natural beauty; and it is concealed within the technicalities of a proposal to grant landowners permitted development rights, without the need for planning permission. This would allow for up to three dwellings to replace or convert existing farm buildings.

If this addressed the desperate shortage of affordable housing in our national parks it would be worth considering. Sadly it is set to make a dire situation worse while destroying the landscape and a fragile rural economy.

The average house price within the Dartmoor national park is in excess of £270,000; nine times the median local income and over sixteen times incomes in the lowest quartile. The chance of finding affordable rented accommodation is also grim, and the situation is forcing out young people and families with serious consequences for rural communities.

An increase in housing supply will do nothing to reduce prices if it caters for an entirely different demand. The proposals would allow for new developments to be almost twice the guideline size for affordable housing. Rather than meeting a genuine need they would unleash a second and luxury homes bonanza, creating yet more ghost villages and hamlets inhabited only at weekends or in season.

The impact of a free-for-all will be huge – not only because developers are likely to prefer to convert remaining heritage outbuildings, but because of the chilling effect this prospect is already having on schemesto build homes for local people.

Since the reduction in capital grants, the best mechanism for creating affordable housing has been through granting planning permission on so-called exception sites. Where the landowner knows there is no possibility of selling to developers at open market housing rates, affordable housing is cross-subsidised by a small percentage of open market value properties.

But with the prospect of a free run at open market development with few strings attached, values are set to rise sharply and we will kiss goodbye to the only realistic opportunity for development land at prices that can deliver housing for local people.

Suburbanisation of our national parks might also deliver the final coup de grace to their fragile ecosystems, already under pressure from changing grazing patterns over recent decades. While cattle and sheep make way for pony paddocks in lower lying areas, loss of grazing livestock from the open moor will lead to a further degradation from heather to gorse. Who can blame them if hill farmers, asset rich and cash flow near zero, opt to fragment or sell their holdings and livestock. They have long struggled to maintain their way of life with scant recognition of their service to conserve this precious landscape on our behalf.

The planning minister, Nick Boles, has been bold in his effort to build more housing. He has walked towards the nimby gunfire on behalf of the people he believes should have the opportunity to own their own home. I hope he will look again at the unintended consequences of the proposed changes and place the need for affordable housing above pressure from developers.

When Lewis Silkin introduced the national parks and access to the countryside bill to parliament in 1949 he described it as a “people’s charter for the open air”. The open countryside of our national parks deserves our protection but also the living, breathing communities who conserve them for the future. We can build more homes for local people by supporting community land trusts and incentivising investment in genuinely affordable housing projects. The proposed measures, by further inflating land values, will kill off any hope for village housing initiatives and puts at risk some of the most beautiful landscapes in the country.