Over 2,000 English villages 'overlooked for homes due to outdated assessment criteria'

Council assessments which measure how suitable villages are for expansion as part of the local plan process are based on criteria 'more akin to how previous generations lived and used services', meaning many villages that could be suitable for development are overlooked, a report has said.

Villages: report calls for more homes to be allowed
Villages: report calls for more homes to be allowed

The report, by the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), which represents landowners, farmers and rural businesess, says that more than 2,000 villages across England "are overlooked by the local planning process as they are judged to be ‘unsustainable’ due to a lack of public services like a post office".

The CLA says that, during the local plan process, councils use sustainability assessments to score settlements on the range of services available there or in close proximity. These villages are then placed in a hierarchy according to their score, with the local plan allocating new housing to those towards the top of the hierarchy.

But the report argues that the assessments "measure villages against a range of services and amenities more akin to how previous generations lived and used services".

It says that councils should factor in how advances in technology, including the widespread use of broadband, "have helped to shape modern life and consider how emerging technology will change rural England".

The report said says only 18 per cent of local authorities analysed by the CLA include the availability of broadband in their sustainability assessments. "This is despite the range of services digital connectivity can facilitate, whether grocery shopping online or ordering prescriptions."

The report also argues that "social capital" should be assessed. "This is not so much related to the way people in a community feel about their local area as it is about tangible examples of social capital in action, such as community transport arrangements, farmers markets or community bulk purchasing agreements for fuel," it says.

Elsewhere, the report says that central government should address the housing needs of communities deemed "unsustainable" by "requiring and funding local authorities to conduct housing needs assessments in any community not allocated housing in the local development plan".

It says that, currently, villages "can produce a neighbourhood plan and allocate additional housing via that", but this can "take two or more years". It adds that, even when neighbourhood plans are put in place, there is no statutory requirement for them to conduct a housing needs assessment.

CLA president Tim Breitmeyer said: "Without more opportunities for young people to remain in the local area, these small communities face an uncertain future.

"We want people to be able to live and work in the countryside, but they are being held back by a lack of affordable homes. Mandatory housing needs assessments will improve our understanding of the rural housing crisis and will help towards building desperately needed homes in the right areas."

In April, a CLA report said that planning applications from rural landowners face "significant delays, additional costs and unrealistic demands from local authorities". 

In July last year, another CLA report said that nearly two-thirds of rural landowners would build more new homes if there was greater support from their local council to work through the planning process. 

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