THERESA May’s proposed shake-up of Britain’s planning regulations represents a sea-change in its attitudes to rural communities, the Country Land and Business Association has said.
The Prime Minister gave scant detail about plans for the countryside when she announced on Monday that housebulders would no longer be allowed to “hoard” land that had been earmarked for development in the expectation that its value would rise.
But a more detailed discussion document published afterwards by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, recommends that new developments in rural areas should “promote sustainable development” and that “housing should be located where it will enhance or maintain the vitality of rural communities”.
It also says planners should in future should avoid the development of isolated homes in the countryside – but it allows exceptions where a development would re-use redundant farm buildings, or where there is a need for workers to live on-site.
The CLA, which represents landowners, farmers and rural businesses, said yesterday that the proposals would see “increased opportunities for building much needed homes for village communities and creating opportunities for business growth and change”.
The organisation has been campaigning for the right to build new homes on farmland that will allow farmers to retire and to transfer their farms to the next family generation.
Its president, Tim Breitmeyer, said: “Housing need is widespread throughout rural England so it is good to see the Government recognise the specific needs of those in the countryside and be bold in its approach to addressing them.”
He added: “The CLA has long argued that in the right circumstances, land outside of existing settlements can play an important role in meeting the housing and business needs of a rural community.
“By backing this policy, the Government is showing a marked shift in its attitude to how planning authorities should treat development opportunities outside towns and villages.”
The Government’s 60-page report contains only one devoted solely to rural housing, but the CLA said its proposal to provide “entry level exception sites” for first-time buyers would help those who live and work in the countryside to get a foot on the housing ladder.
The proposals allow for the building of such developments in rural areas on land that would not normally be used for housing.
Mr Breitmeyer said: “We welcome the fact that rural exception sites are now considered as appropriate development within the green belt.
“These small areas of land, which are not normally used for housing but where affordable homes can be built for local people, give all rural communities the ability to build the homes that are desperately needed while keeping them affordable in perpetuity.”
Last month, the CLA produced a report on the shortage of homes for retiring farmers in their own communities, and called for “favourable consideration” to be given to planning applications that allowed the “orderly transfer” of farms and provided a nearby home for the outgoing farmer.