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“A Living Working Countryside”. A response to the Matthew Taylor Review. Peter Home Senior Planning Officer, HDC. Introduction. The key problem… “ The English countryside is a wonderful place to live and work – if you can afford a home, if you can find a reasonably paid job .”

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a living working countryside

“A Living Working Countryside”

A response to the Matthew Taylor Review

Peter Home

Senior Planning Officer, HDC


The key problem…

“The English countryside is a wonderful place to live and work – if you can afford a home, if you can find a reasonably paid job.”

Matthew Taylor MP


The key solutions …?

“The planning process has to become an engine of regeneration or we face a future of decline.”

“In many cases just a handful of well designed homes, kept affordable in perpetuity for local people, will make all the difference to the sustainability of the community and its services.”

The Process
  • Matthew Taylor Review – July 2008
  • Government Response Document – March 2009
  • Planning Policy Statement (PPS) 4: Planning for Prosperous Economies – May 2009
  • Possible changes to other PPSs (e.g. PPS3: Housing & PPG13 Transport) - ???
  • LDF preparation (Core Strategy reviews etc) - Ongoing
The Context – Housing Delivery

“Three million new homes by 2020”

This means at least 750,000 in areas classed as ‘rural’ based on balance of UK population

The Context – Housing Delivery

The South East Plan translates this into average annual figures for new homes: 32,708 per year until 2026

And for East and West Sussex: 5,800 per year

South East Plan – May 2009

The Context – Demographic Change
  • In the last 10 years the UK’s rural population has increased by over 800,000
  • Long term trend of ‘counter urbanisation’ driven by:
  • Perceptions that quality of life is better in the countryside & worse in urban areas
  • Reducing barriers to commuting by improved ‘strategic’ transport and Internet/communications technology
  • ‘Cashing in’ on house price rises in London, before rural prices caught up
The Problems – ‘Sustainability Trap’
  • Government policy for at least 15 years has been to ensure housing supply contributes to achieving ‘sustainable communities’:
  • Desire to reduce CO2 emissions by minimising dependence on car travel
  • Desire to increase social cohesion, particularly in urban areas
  • Desire to protect ‘greenfield’ land from development for good landscape and biodiversity reasons



The Problems – ‘Sustainability Trap’

But, what makes development sustainable?

The Problems – ‘Sustainability Trap’
  • Matthew Taylor argues that this national policy drive for sustainable development has had unintended detrimental effects for rural areas by:
  • Reinforcing the long-term undersupply of all types of homes in rural areas
  • Contributing to housing characterised by low quality and poorly designed estates that harm the character of larger rural settlements and reinforce car dependence
The Problems – ‘Sustainability Trap’
  • Restricting almost all housing delivery in smaller and more rural villages – creating stagnation
  • Causing the demand/supply mismatch that contributes to escalating and unaffordable rural house prices
  • Holding back and harming the economy of rural areas by a combination of the above
The Problems – ‘Sustainability Trap’
  • Economic Effects of the ‘sustainability trap’:
  • Increasingly unaffordable housing underlines economy as labour market is constrained
  • Demand for local services declines (e.g. bus, P.O.)
  • Skills drain from rural areas as young people are forced to leave – 100,000 young people to leave rural areas in next 4 years (National Housing Federation)
The Problems – ‘Sustainability Trap’
  • Social effects of the ‘sustainability trap’:
  • Social and economic polarisation between rural ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’
  • Service downgrading and closure leads to social isolation, particularly for those with no car
  • Erosion of family and community ties as young move away and wealthy outsiders move in
The Problems – ‘Sustainability Trap’
  • Environmental effects of the ‘sustainability trap’:
  • Fast growth in ‘reverse commuting’ (rural workforce drive in from cheaper housing areas in towns)
  • Wealthy urban work force drive to urban centres reinforcing traditional commuting patterns
  • Increased need to travel for services which are further away and less accessible by public transport /cycling
The Problems – 1. Long-term Undersupply
  • Planning policy bias against building on ‘greenfield’ land to protect agricultural land, landscape and biodiversity
  • National and local targets for building on ‘brownfield’ land – reusing a resource
  • Emphasis on delivering development in larger service centres where range of transport choices exists
The Problems – 1. Long-term Undersupply
  • But, Matthew Taylor challenges these assumptions:
  • A smaller proportion of UK is ‘developed’ than imagined – 3 million homes could be delivered on less than 0.5% of UK’s presently undeveloped area
  • Much ‘greenfield’ land is monoculture agricultural with far less biodiversity than many ‘brownfield sites’
  • The bias towards building in larger centres is reinforcing the reduction in transport choices in rural areas as bus services disappear
The Problems – 2. Bland housing estates
  • The approach to delivery in rural market towns is reactive; i.e. the minimum amount of land is released to meet immediate housing targets with little forward thinking
  • This results in bland estates with no new services that are crammed onto small parcels at the edge of the market town
  • Restrictive approach to greenfield land makes for densities that are inappropriately high
The Problems – 2. Bland housing estates

Typical modern high density estates have gardens too small to plant trees. The results are clearly harmful to the character of market towns

The Problems – 3. Stagnating villages

The planning policy context leads to the ‘writing-off’ of small and very rural villages are too unsustainable for any new development at all.

These villages may be very attractive and in protected landscapes and may already have few services.

Little thought is given to the long-term effects on these villages…

The Problems – 3. Stagnating villages
  • Villages ‘preserved in aspic’ cannot thrive as sustainable communities
  • High demand by wealthy incomes (particularly the retired of second homes owners) drives up prices way beyond those affordable to most with a connection to the village
  • Local services disappear and the young and workers on lower salaries leave
  • Sustainability and social cohesion is undermined
The Problems – 4. Affordability crisis
  • House price rises in rural areas are a relatively simple result of supply and demand factors
  • Whereas some decades ago all but the lowest or unwaged could afford a home, now even skilled and graduate workers on average wages can no longer afford to buy or rent
  • The need for genuinely affordable housing is increasing dramatically, but supply is at best level.
The Problems – 4. Affordability crisis
  • The Government target for new homes in small rural villages (under 3,000 population) is 3,400 per year
  • The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has estimated that some 9,500 per year would be need to meet current demand (does not include removing backlog)
  • The credit crunch has not helped – modest price reductions are off-set by a decline in credit availability and larger fees for new mortgages. Few rural Sussex homes benefit from stamp duty holiday.
The Problems – 5. Harming the economy
  • Rural economy is relatively strong and it contributes far more to UK national economy than many think
  • Huge changes in recent years away from ‘traditional’ sectors to diverse and dynamic sectors including knowledge and financial industries & manufacturing
  • 1998 – 2006 there was a 46% increase in ‘knowledge intensive businesses’ (urban areas = 21%)
  • Homework is very strong – 17% in rural areas vs. 8% in urban
The Problems – 5. Harming the economy
  • But…
  • Appearance of wealth in rural UK hides much genuine poverty
  • Average wages of people who live and work in the countryside is £4,653 less than UK national average
  • Housing scarcity and steep prices ‘push’ skilled workers away from rural area leaving skills deficit for low-paid professions (carers, social workers, teachers) – this constrains the economy
The Problems – 5. Harming the economy
  • Planning policy context has traditionally restricted rural employment and commercial development in the same way as it has housing development
  • New development restricted to scarce ‘brownfield’ sites
  • Existing development afforded little protection if application for housing is made
  • Home workers and home businesses often struggle to get permission for extensions
The Solutions?
  • Matthew Taylor made 48 recommendations of which the Government has agreed about 40.
  • But this does not mean the problems can be resolved quickly – this needs to be a long-term process
  • They are not all new - many of the recommendations relate to actions already being undertaken by authorities and communities across Sussex
The Solutions - 1. Long-term Undersupply
  • The report calls for assumptions about delivery on greenfield sites to be challenged:
  • Where these sites support little biodiversity and contribute only marginally to the landscape quality, they may be preferable to small cramped brownfield sites
  • This must be part of a ‘Masterplanning’ approach that looks longer term and seeks to ensure that sufficient housing of the right kind according to needs (market and affordable) is provided in rural areas
The Solutions - 1. Ensuring housing supply
  • Looking long term and taking a Masterplanning approach will allow development to be scaled so that:
  • transport services can be supported and
  • sufficient space set aside for high quality ‘natural’ open space that is biodiversity rich
  • These will help to ensure the development is environmentally sustainable
The Solutions – Improving design
  • The report argues for the Masterplanning approach to be delivers through the LDF process. Key requirements to deliver better housing developments include:
  • Taking a longer term outlook that does not seek to allocate the minimum land for the minimum possible number of homes
  • Ensuing that local communities participate fully in the production of Masterplans
The Solutions – Improving design
  • Ensuring that development is scaled (over a number of years) to be able to provide for services, employment areas, retail and infrastructure that is needed
  • The objective must be to create a ‘community’ and not a housing estate – creating destinations not routes to take cars to other places
  • More innovative use of densities and open space is needed to protect and enhance character of market towns…
The Solutions – Revitalising small villages
  • Possible solutions considered:
  • Do nothing – villages will continue to stagnate and social cohesion and overall sustainability will deteriorate
  • Let the market deliver – seeking to correct demand/supply imbalance with large-scale building will be environmentally unacceptable
  • Increase plan-led allocations – for mixed (market and affordable housing developments…
The Solutions – Revitalising small villages
  • Increase plan-led allocations – for mixed (market and affordable housing developments.
  • Allocations must be based on local needs and on viability assessments. Affordable housing likely to be viable due to high market house prices.
  • Like the masterplanning approach for market towns, there must also a high level of community participation.
  • The allocation must seek to ensure that services are enhanced and protected.
The Solutions – Revitalising small villages
  • Promote ‘Exceptions Sites’
  • Pioneered in 1989 for affordable housing in villages less than 3,000 population where houses would not normally be permitted.
  • Houses must be affordable in perpetuity – not subject to ‘right to buy’
  • Must be a clear connection between homes delivered and local needs and community support is a vital part of the process
The Solutions – Revitalising small villages
  • Report terms this approach “Community led affordable housing”
  • It requires the planning authority to be proactive in seeking sites and helping deliver the homes
  • The local community (particularly parish councils) have a clear role in this process as to Rural Housing Enablers (Action in Rural Sussex)
  • Matthew Taylor recommends that local communities should be able to initiate and expect planning authority support
The Solutions – Horsham’s experience

Horsham District Council works proactively with local communities and AiRS in a way the Report recommends:-

Andrew Smith

Housing Development and Strategy Manager

Horsham District Council

The Solutions – 5. Protecting the rural economy
  • The Report recommends changing the national policy framework:
  • To ensure existing rural employment sites are offered protection
  • To realign the criteria for assessing new employment and commercial development
  • And in both cases the key criterion should be the level of existing employment/commercial provision in that local community – in other words ensuring needs are met
The Solutions – Horsham Case Study
  • The HDC General Development Control Policies Document – adopted December 2007
  • Specific policy for rural economic development (DC25)
  • Encourages new development where it delivers specific economic benefits for the rural economy – e.g. employing local workers or providing a needed service
  • Policy DC19 also offers protection in ‘Employment Protection Zones’ many of which are located in rural areas and outside of village boundaries.
The Solutions – 5. Protecting the rural economy
  • Home working and home businesses also need to be protected and encouraged:
  • The Government is actively looking at changes to the ‘use class’ orders to allow better development management for house extensions that will be used as business premises
  • Many authorities are looking at ‘live work’ solutions for rural areas and at rural ‘small business hubs’ to service home businesses

An impossible task?

“The planning system has a crucial role to promote and deliver sustainable communities – ensuring development occurs in the right place at the right time and makes a positive contribution to people’s lives – providing homes, jobs, opportunity and enhancing quality of life. It must simultaneously protect and enhance the natural and historic environment, and conserve the countryside and open spaces that are important to everyone.”


Thank you!