Co-operation call on homes plan for farm buildings

COUNCILS are being urged to work with farmers and landowners to develop sections of their land for affordable housing.

Communities Minister Andrew Stunell is calling on farmers and authorities to work together so disused or under-used farm buildings can be converted to help local people struggling to get on the property ladder.

The coalition Government's Programme for Government document, published after the election, committed to pursue the Home on the Farm scheme to combat chronic shortages of affordable housing in rural areas.

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Average house prices in rural England have more than doubled over the past decade to more than 250,000 while the average salary is just 21,000.

The number of people on social housing waiting lists in rural areas has risen to 750,000.

Mr Stunell encouraged councils to consider using or amending their existing planning policies to allow farm buildings to be adapted for residential use, calling for a "rural revolution" to combat the shortage.

The announcement did not, however, contain details of how government would alter the planning system nationally to ease the process for local authorities or how such practices would be administered in national parks such as the Yorkshire Dales or North York Moors.

Mr Stunell said: "Farmers are the custodians of our countryside, managing thousands of acres of rural land across England. But when they want to make disused buildings available for new homes, they can often face an uphill battle to get planning permission in the face of their council's development plans.

"As more young people are unable to afford to live in rural areas and village schools, shops and pubs struggle to survive, farmers are ideally placed to help bring the community together to help reverse this trend."

Mr Stunell added: "That's why I want to make it easier for farmers to offer Homes on the Farm for local people. One small step for councils will offer a significant opportunity for communities to get the new and affordable homes their villages need."

The Country Land and Business Association has been campaigning strongly for improvements to create affordable housing.

Its regional director for Yorkshire, Dorothy Fairburn, welcomed the Communities Minister's views but said further leadership was needed to make the plans a reality.

PROPERTY PRICES UP DESPITE MARKET

Property asking prices jumped by more than three per cent during October as sellers refused to adjust to new market conditions, research indicated today.

The average person putting their home up for sale in England and Wales hiked their asking price by 3.1 per cent, or just over 7,000, to 236,849, according to property website Rightmove.

The increase follows three consecutive months of falling prices and comes despite the fact that the number of homes estate agents had on their books remained close to record levels.