Finding homes for rural areas

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GIVEN the gulf in pay between rural Yorkshire and the salaries commanded in the region’s urban conurbations, it only follows that many families steeped in the countryside are being priced out of the housing market.

Even though the precise definition of the term affordable is open to conjecture, the Countryside Alliance’s critique shows the extent to which successive governments have failed to address the rural economy’s imbalances.

Some will argue that the migration of 800,000 people from cities to the countryside over the past decade shows that the countryside’s difficulties have been exaggerated.

They have not been. A significant proportion of this trend can be attributed to families making their wealth in urban cities before choosing to spend their retirement in an idyllic rural location.

On the whole, they are not individuals who will be totally dependent on the viability of a farm, or rural enterprise, to eke out a living that can sustain a young family.

Here is the rub: without a new generation of farming families, Britain’s countryside will lose much of its aesthetic appeal. Yet, when one studies the modest number of “affordable homes” that local authorities are required to approve each year, there is little excuse for these targets being missed. And, even if the recession is a contributory factor, the shortfall identified by the Countryside Alliance needs to be made up.

Take Ryedale. Required to build 292 affordable homes last year, it backed plans for 34 – 12 per cent of its target. Contrast this with neighbouring Hambleton which managed to approve 100 of its 113 homes – a success rate of 88 per cent.

Two points need to be made. First, both Hambleton and Ryedale are comparable areas, which makes the disparity even more marked. And, second, the number of suggested affordable homes is still relatively modest – such numbers will not have a dramatic impact on the rural landscape.

Whatever the reasons, local authorities and the Government need to start prioritising the issue of rural housing and redouble their efforts to work alongside developers. For, unless they do so, the countryside will be left facing an even greater economic crisis.