County leads way on cheap homes

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the Government is urging regional authorities to follow a North Yorkshire council’s lead to convert disused farm buildings into new affordable homes for local people.

The Communities Minister Andrew Stunell said Harrogate Borough Council’s innovative approach to providing homes in rural areas should be rolled out across the country.

Praising the council for “thinking outside the box”, he is calling on other rural authorities to develop the imaginitive scheme, which would see them working with their communities to deliver the homes they need.

In a statement, which appears on the Department of Communities and Local Government website, Mr Stunell said: “Harrogate’s approach is in the spirit of the ‘Home on the Farm’ idea, which promotes conversion of disused farm buildings into new homes. Councils and rural communities need to think innovatively and outside the box to make sure they deliver the homes they need.

“The work by Harrogate Borough Council shows what can be done when a local authority thinks imaginatively about its affordable housing needs.

“I’d like to congratulate Harrogate, and call on other rural councils to look at their example, and see what else they can do to work with local farmers and their communities to convert their disused buildings and deliver a home on the farm.”

The average house price in rural areas is £250,000, yet the average salary is only £21,000 a year, meaning many local people struggle to get on the housing ladder.

Mr Stunell wants to see farmers identify disused farm buildings that could be converted into new affordable homes for local people, and for councils to look favourably on their planning applications.

Harrogate Borough Council has been spearheading a drive to ensure affordable homes are included in building conversion schemes in the countryside for any development above three dwellings or covering an area of a quarter of an acre or more.

Coun Jean Butterfield, Cabinet member for housing, said: “It is really good that we have been recognised by the Government for the work we are doing in the Harrogate district. We will never tire of finding ways of providing homes for local people and we will use all the powers we have at our disposal.”

The Yorkshire Post revealed on Thursday that housing experts have warned the property crisis is set to get worse and urged developers to push ahead with multi-million pound housing schemes to address a critical lack of affordable homes in the region.

Concerns have been raised over the housing crisis which is gripping Yorkshire and the National Housing Federation claimed new construction schemes were vital in preventing the property market from grinding to a halt and securing the future of the economy.

Despite a number of schemes being given the go-ahead across the region, developers are being warned they will not be able to shirk affordable homes requirements despite the state of the housing market.

Earlier this month, York Council’s leader Coun James Alexander raised concerns over an application for an extension of planning permission by a developer for the redevelopment of a 19-acre brownfield site on Water Lane in Clifton Moor in the city.

The original application for the site was granted in 2008, provided 38 per cent of homes built on it were classed as affordable. However, the latest application contends that it would now not be viable to create any affordable homes on the site despite the value of the land rising by almost £1m.

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