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?

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

  1. Andrew, my response to Princess Anne’s speech is on my blog, here: It’s provoked a couple of interesting responses about how CPRE reconciles its aims of protecting the countryside while ensuring that it is a ‘living’ countryside.
    Shaun Spiers

  2. The CPRE has been hijacked. Here in East Devon the chair of the local CPRE argued at the local plan inspection 2weeks ago for deregistering all protection of the Exe Estuary – a major wetlands site – to enable development.

    • I told the Telegraph: “We want a living countryside, not a countryside of commuter villages or retirement ghettos. The important thing is that villages should grow organically, with the consent of those who live there, and that priority is given to creating genuinely affordable homes for people with strong employment or family ties to the area. The way to do this is, wherever possible, is to have a community-led process which identifies suitable sites for inclusion in local and neighbourhood plans. With this in place, development is more likely to be well-located and high quality, and therefore win local support.”

      I can see how those wanting large scale developments in villages might disagree with this statement, but i don’t think it should cause any alarm to those who want to protect the countryside while recognising that its towns and villages will change in the future, as they’ve always changed in the past.

      Shaun Spiers,CPRE

  3. From all my research I have concluded that there are over 40,000 villages in the UK so it would not be 240 per village!
    Many villages I know can take over 240 new dwellings in the next 15 years without destroying them.
    The problem is that many villages, 42 out of 60 in our newly approved core strategy here in Selby District, Yorkshire, have no planned allocation so they are to be left to stagnate and continue to lose services, schools, transport, pubs etc etc

    • There are  there were 10,479 parishes in England.  You seem to be counting hamlets without any services s villages and assuming they can take 65 houses each – sprawl if ever I saw it.


      • This is fallacious, Andrew.

        For example to take one local parish – Blackwell (Bolsover) in Derbyshire. That contains 4 “villages”, each with a population of 500+ and each capable of absorbing dozens of houses with no ill effect.

        The real number of communities is – I would say – higher.

        If we are going to argue in numbers, we can’t draw too-broad conclusions without drilling down.

      • The large majority of civil parishes in England has only one main village – the rest being hamlets.  Certainly there are some areas likes the fens and coal mining areas with multiples but they are very much the exception.


      • Can you point me at an analysis of that – ie both the claim that the majority of Civil Parishes contain a single community able to take development, and that the ‘hamlets’ are not able to do so?

        I wonder if the defintiion of “hamlet” is one key question here.

      • Overlay os open data noundary line civil parishes and strategi setlements and do a geogrpahoc hoin counting the nymber of one wholly or partially within the other and you will see – after filitering out unparished districts. Pay me for a couple of days GIS work and I will give you an exact answer.

  4. But why would you want to build in villages if people can (first) be accommodated in new towns, cities and old towns where, increasingly, many of them prefer to live? Higher densities are much easier to achieve in new towns, cities and towns and they (mostly) have better infrastructure to cope with the changes.

    And still no-one mentions the thousands upon thousands of empty properties (and second and third homes) all over the place.

    • @Pandora

      >why would you want to build in villages if people can (first) be accommodated in new towns

      For one thing because we want a countryside not a heritage attraction, and we want people who work there to live there.

      The thousands upon thousands of empty and derelict buildings in National Parks have just been mentioned, and that caused various heritagey-type people to have apoplexy attacks. Put them back in their box!

      I think the alleged 3.75 million new homes required number can be addressed from the supply side too; simply reversing the atomisation of households *slightly* would make a major dent, as would dealing with the habit of certain councils (eg Oxford) from attempts to prevent professionals living in shared houses.

      A couple of new houses per average village per year is not sprawl; it is organic development. And that would give us 10-20% of our need, in line with the degree of urbanisation of the population.

  5. The ‘problem’ of development in our villages has been discussed for decades.
    (I have several text books on the topic : some new, some decades old)

    It simply comes down to one thing : ‘gentrification’.

    The farming community is now a small minority in the countryside and the villages are full of white, middle class, well educated, influential commuters and pensioners.

    All the fancy arguments from those seeking to ‘protect the countryside’ can be repackaged as “I’m all right Jack”.

    Homes for the riff-raff can be built in towns and on brownfield sites.

    The sad thing is that many/most villages have lost any sense of community and their shops, pubs etc are rapidly disappearing.

    Additionally many village houses are relatively modern bungalows and the like.

    So what are we ‘protecting’ exactly?

    I feel that if we have a chance of revitalising villages by allowing their size to increase, then go for it. Perhaps the increased population will allow village shops and other businesses to survive, or be reinstated?

    Is this ‘sprawl’? I think not : there is a LOT of countryside out there!

    We have missed an opportunity : ‘Rural Regeneration’ has been a hot topic for decades and there have been several reports on the topic.

    See for example “Matthew Taylor report: Living, Working Countryside (2008)”.

    Yet, despite all these reports and initiatives, nothing ever happens : the village dwellers together with their district councillors and the local planning departments plus the CPRE ensure that only the ‘right sort’ can live in the villages.

    Well, the wheels have come off the cart now : decades of over-restrictive housing policies have led to a huge shortfall in housing – and sadly that means the villages will end up with huge housing developments being plonked down nearby.

    All this makes one wonder why Planning is called Planning …..

  6. Build too much in a village and it becomes a town without a town’s infrastructure. There is an assumption that villages can only grow. The reality is that many people – such as pensioners, for example – are now choosing to live in towns and cities whereas before they lived in villages. No-one would disagree that villages should take their share of development – but what exactly is their share?

  7. >> Build too much in a village and it becomes a town without a town’s infrastructure.

    .. but at a certain critical size infrastructure should/could emerge in support of the increased population.

    In the future energy costs – and transport costs – will rise whilst broadband etc will increase in performance & penetration.

    At the same time farms may need to gradually increase their workforces.

    All this could lead to increasingly vibrant villages with more local busineses and less commuting.

    Or if the current ‘build nothing in the country’ tendency continues we may see villages being abandoned by all except the very rich.

    I think that we need to think about the strategic aspects earlier rather than later.

  8. In the 40 years from around 1965 there were 152 new homes built in our village all were sustainable and lived in, since then only 1 has been completed and is lived in, 3 have been demolished.
    If the sustainable trend had continued we would have had 34 more new homes built up to present day (the backlog) and planning for 57 to be built over the next 15 years, continued organic growth that would help maintain the villages dynamics and services.
    That is what villages need!!!
    As it is we are to have no plannned development according to the recently signeed off Core Strategy for Selby District,

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