“Local communities are finding creative solutions to the problem – using their knowledge of the local area and landscape to find ways around an overloaded planning system that tends to benefit larger, more commercial developers.” [Food, Farming and Countryside Commission]
Last month, the district council decided to put a break on its housing plans: BREAKING: East Devon local plan put on hold – Vision Group for Sidmouth
But there are still questions about how affordable housing can be provided – especially in rural areas.
The Food, Farming and Countryside Commission website looks at the issues and possible ways out:
The English countryside is famous the world over for its pastoral beauty and centuries-old traditions. But for thousands of rural communities across the country, this rose-tinted vision of the country idyll couldn’t be further from the truth. The countryside is in crisis – and it’s changing fast.
Many can find neither work nor affordable housing and are forced to relocate to areas where they have few connections and support networks. Flooding is becoming a fact of life – despite the risk to life and livelihood – as rural communities bear the brunt of climate change and changing weather patterns. And the cost-of-living crisis is disproportionately affecting rural communities, with residents facing a triple burden of higher heating and transport costs, while also earning a lower income.
In the past few years, affordable housing stock in rural areas has been decimated by second homes, the holiday rental market and an exodus from cities, sparked by a pandemic-induced work from home culture. Despite this, local communities are finding creative solutions to the problem – using their knowledge of the local area and landscape to find ways around an overloaded planning system that tends to benefit larger, more commercial developers over smaller ones.
Cambridgeshire ACRE’s Rural Housing Partnership, for example, brings together housing associations, local authorities and the community to build on Rural Exception Sites. These are small areas of land, usually just outside a village boundary, that wouldn’t get planning permission for commercial housing developments, but which are sold for affordable housing projects at well below market value.
The group is about ‘championing community-led housing and planning’: Cambridgeshire ACRE | Home | Supporting rural communities
Community led housing is a growing movement of normal people taking action and managing housing projects that build the decent and affordable homes that the country so desperately needs. What is community led housing? | Community Led Homes
In Devon, there are various initiatives: Community-Led Housing – Devon Community Housing Hub
As there are in East Devon: Community Land Trusts – East Devon
There are examples from last year in the county: 21 affordable Woolacombe homes one step closer to reality and Aster partners with Homes England to build 1,550 homes | Property Reporter and Houses to be built on former youth club site – Plymouth Live
And the Sid Valley Neighbourhood Plan allows for ‘exception sites’ which provide “residential developments, with no more than 15 homes, [which] can be built on land immediately next to the BUAB as long as the residents have a local connection, the homes are sized to meet local housing need, are in keeping with the area and 66 per cent is made up of affordable homes.” An outline of the housing polices covered by the neighbourhood plan | Sidmouth Herald
With an example at Sidbury considered by its district councillor: Sidbury EDDC Councillor
However, this is all still rather limited – the question being whether any local community-led housing initiatives could happen here in the Sid Valley. As it is happening elsewhere: Wessex Community Housing Hub – Vision Group for Sidmouth and Community-led development in Frome – Vision Group for Sidmouth