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From the editor: Affordable rural housing needs moving up priority list

Availability of affordable housing in rural areas continues to be a contentious issue.

For many farming families, the lack of housing in small towns and villages can provide particular challenges, whether it is for those looking to get a foot on the ladder, or those looking to exit the industry but stay local to where they have farmed.

 

The extent of the rural housing problem makes, therefore, calls by the Local Government Association (LGA) to scrap permitted development rights on agricultural buildings baffling.

 

Maybe it is the lack of council control over such schemes the LGA is lashing out at, but for many rural residents there are much bigger challenges to overcome than whether a barn is being developed in to a habitable dwelling.

 

At a time when much of the greenbelt has been opened up to new housing developments, many rural dwellers would like to see more affordable properties being built as part of these schemes, rather than the bespoke homes with skyhigh prices which often get constructed and which freeze lower income individuals out of the housing market and out of the community.

 

As house prices have boomed over the past 20 years, the options for retiring farmers have diminished.

 

Where once a cottage in a nearby village may have been worth £80,000, that same property can sell for in excess of £200,000 as the location becomes more desirable for those with money.


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This can leave those at the end of their careers isolated and with little choice but to either keep on farming, or face the prospect of moving a significant distance away.

 

It is a catch-22 situation which requires serious deliberation from local councils, with more leniency surrounding on-farm house development one part of the solution.

 

It is hard to believe permitted development rights are anything but positive for many farms, either as a development cash cow or opportunity to provide rural houses for family members.

 

The challenge for local authorities is ensuring access to affordable homes which enable rural communities to retain their people, and their soul.

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