The National Rural Conference 2024

The Rural Services Network (RSN) is thrilled to announce the National Rural Conference 2024, taking place from 16th to 19th September. This virtual event, accessible via Zoom, is the premier gathering for senior officers, members, policymakers, and rural service professionals.
Further information and booking details can be found here

Pioneering Guide Champions Beautiful and Affordable Rural Housing

English Rural Housing Association, in collaboration with a panel of rural experts and advocates, has launched a groundbreaking initiative aimed at transforming the perception of affordable rural housing. The publication, titled 'A Design Guide: Building Tomorrow's Rural Communities', was officially released on Friday, 5th July 2024. The guide features a compelling Foreword by HRH The Princess Royal, underlining the significance of this pioneering work in addressing the rural housing crisis and promoting sustainable, beautiful, and affordable homes in the countryside. 

Unveiled at a launch event in Cheltenham, the guide demonstrates that, with the right approach, new homes built in the countryside can be both beautiful and affordable. It showcases exemplary design principles from across England, featuring distinctive illustrations by renowned author and architectural illustrator Matthew Rice

The guide is divided into five main sections: the future of rural communities; the importance of well-designed homes; the village landscape; designing with tradition; and building towards tomorrow. Alongside HRH The Princess Royal's Foreword, it features expert contributions from Martin Collett, Jo Lavis, Matthew Rice and other respected rural advocates. 

The launch event also highlighted the broader rural housing crisis: 

  • Rural house prices have skyrocketed by an astonishing 29% over the past five years, far outpacing growth in rural wages. 
  • Shockingly, only 8% of the rural housing stock is classified as affordable, compared to 19% in urban areas. 
  • 28% of people in social housing face stigma from their neighbours and 15% from housing officials

The guide includes a practical toolkit for villages looking to inform the design of new homes in their community. This toolkit is designed to empower local communities to take an active role in shaping the future of their built environment. 

RSN Chief Executive, Kerry Booth attended the launch alongside various rural advocates, planners, architects, developers, and housing associations.

Key speakers included Sir Peter Dixon (President, English Rural), Elizabeth Buchanan CVO (Steering Committee member of Future Countryside), Matthew Rice, Martin Collett (Chief Executive, English Rural), and Ursula Bennion (Chief Executive, Trent & Dove Housing Association) who highlighted the value of good design and community support. They also recognised the urgent need for a national programme of building affordable homes in rural areas and the importance of winning hearts and minds on the subjects of quality, affordability and design. 

Martin Collett, Chief Executive of English Rural, emphasised the significance of the guide, saying,  

"The rural housing crisis is a pressing issue that demands our attention, and it is clear that we must take action. By challenging the stigma surrounding social housing and embracing good design principles that are valued by the local community, we can create homes that are not only affordable but also beautiful. We hope to encourage more villages in need of homes for their community to come forward." 

The guide’s illustrator, Matthew Rice, echoed these sentiments, adding,  

"By weaving together thoughtful design and local materials, we can create homes that seamlessly blend into the fabric of rural communities, enhancing both the built and natural environment. This guide is a testament to that belief."

Roger Mortlock, chief executive of CPRE, the countryside charity, said:? 

“The rural housing crisis is tearing the heart out of communities and draining the countryside of skills, economic activity and public services. People in rural parts of the country desperately need more affordable and social homes. These should be built in a way that is sympathetic to their surroundings, at a scale appropriate to the size of the town or village and with significant input from local communities.?? 

This new guide will help local councils, community groups and other housebuilders build?beautiful homes that people can be proud – and afford – to live in.” 

For more information, please contact: David Barrowcliff, Head of Communications, English Rural: david.barrowcliff@englishrural.org.uk

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