CLA's report on sustainability of rural villages

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA), which is a membership organisation for owners of land, property and business in rural England and Wales, has published “Sustainable Villages – Making Rural Communities Fit for the Future”.

The report reveals how outdated sustainability assessments coupled with a static approach to rural planning have led to the stagnation of thousands of rural communities with more than 2,000 English villages at risk of being “frozen in time”.

Local authorities score settlements, creating hierarchies. Points are awarded for services available in the community. This snapshot in time assessment is the basis for housing allocations and developing a Local Plan. The assessments can quickly become out of date, yet local authorities continue to rely upon them for years. This hierarchy results in significant expansions of high scoring market towns/villages with a shortage of new homes being built in the low scoring settlements.

There is concern that the branding of these villages as unsustainable is causing a shortage of affordable rural housing. In turn this means young people do not remain in these villages, so the populations are ageing, residents’ needs are ever increasing, creating a cycle of decline.

The CLA is critical about the importance some LAs have given certain services, for example only 20% of councils considered broadband availability in their assessment of whether villages could take more homes, compared with 92% that take into account the availability of a pub.

The report argues that central government should address the housing needs of unsustainable communities by requiring and funding local authorities to conduct Housing Needs Assessments in any community not allocated housing the Local Development Plan. It concludes that the planning system has a huge role to play in “addressing the economic and social needs of the people who live in that area is the long-term solution to the rural housing crisis.”

This summary was written by Isobel Ballsdon, Account Manager