Spotlight on Rural Housing - April 2021

A quarterly bulletin facilitated by your membership of the Rural Services Network and produced in partnership with the Rural Housing Alliance, highlighting a selection of current rural housing issues and opportunities


Revitalising Rural: realising the vision

The Rural Services Network launched the Revitalising Rural: Realising the Vision campaign in March 2021, with a select committee style event Chaired by Philip Dunne MP, Chair of the Rural Services APPG. The campaign aims to set out a number of key asks of Government to help ensure rural areas are not left behind in levelling up England. Public services in rural areas should be fairly funded to ensure that additional costs of delivering rural services are recognised and adequately funded.

The RSN is urging the Government to give rural communities the consideration they deserve in post-pandemic policy making. With equitable funding and support, people living outside major cities in England will be empowered to fully contribute to the country’s socio-economic recovery in the months and years to come.

All Government policies should be developed and implemented in ways which take into account the particular needs of rural communities and are designed to suit rural circumstances with local delivery wherever possible.

The campaign sets out key asks in a number of policy areas including rural transport, affordable housing, digital connectivity and access to health services. You can view all of the campaign documents and policy asks at this link.

The Rural Affordable Housing Chapter highlights key issues and challenges in the delivery of and access to affordable housing in rural areas, and sets out a number of asks focusing on:

  • Affordable housing quotas
  • Grant funding for rural areas
  • Community-led housing
  • Exception sites
  • Sale of affordable homes

The Rural Affordable Housing chapter can be viewed via this link.


Almshouses get new lease of life

Work will get underway later this month on a scheme that will see historic buildings in a North Yorkshire village undergo a £640,000 refurbishment to create affordable homes for local people.

A partnership between local charity The Matthew Robinson Trust and Broadacres Housing Association will result in two Almshouses built in 1680, along with a former schoolmasters’ house and school room, being remodelled into new, modern homes in Burneston.

It follows an approach from the Hambleton Rural Housing Enabler Amanda Madden, who is responsible for kick-starting new rural housing developments in local communities.

Once completed later this year, the homes will be let to people with a connection to the village or surrounding area.

Broadacres is providing its professional services to support The Matthew Robinson Trust in realising its vision of restoring the buildings which are situated in the heart of the village. This has included local consultation, submitting the necessary planning applications, making applications for funding, and choosing the contractor for the refurbishment.

The two existing Almshouses and old school room, which are Grade 2* listed and have been vacant for a while, will undergo an external and internal refurbishment, with a ‘light touch’ approaching being taken to sympathetically repair the fabric of the building.

This will create a ‘new’ one-bedroom property alongside the existing one and two-bedroom Almshouse properties within the Grade 2* listed buildings.

In addition, the former schoolmasters’ house will be extended from an existing two-bedroom property into a four-bedroom family home.

The scheme has received significant financial backing, with Homes England providing a grant of £200,000, The Matthew Robinson Trust donating £50,000, Hambleton District Council pledging £75,000 and The Almshouse Association donating £20,000. The rest of the funding will come via the Charity Bank.

Broadacres’ Chief Executive Gail Teasdale said: “We are delighted to be working in partnership with The Matthew Robinson Trust on this exciting scheme which will provide affordable homes in these historic buildings. It’s a good example of how Broadacres is able to offer innovative solutions to support local organisations, charities and communities.”


Working with the church to develop affordable rural housing

Hot on the heels of the publication of Coming Home, the report of the Commission of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York on Housing, Church and Community, David Barrowcliff of English Rural Housing Association, describes how one project was enabled by close working with the church.

The lack of good quality, affordable rural housing is widely known. In fact, our recent research demonstrates the economic, societal and fiscal benefits of investing in affordable homes in rural areas.

An issue facing rural housing associations is the lack of available land on which to build small-scale schemes which, for English Rural, average only six homes. One solution is to work with the Church to help release underutilised land for affordable housing.

Just like the Church, English Rural believes in building strong communities and bringing people together. That’s why we have partnered with the Church in many of our rural housing schemes. One example is in the village of Roxwell, Essex.

The parish of Roxwell is located approximately 4 miles to the West of the City of Chelmsford. The village has a population of just over 1,000 people which supports a pre-school, primary school, village shop, pub, village hall and reading room and a Church. With support from the parish council, housing needs surveys were carried out in 2012 and 2018 by the Essex Rural Housing Enabler. The results were assessed against a variety of other data on housing affordability and availability and indicated a housing need from twenty households. The parish council worked with the RHE to identify possible suitable sites for a small exceptions site development. The preferred site at Green Lane was owned by the Diocese of Chelmsford. English Rural, who had been selected by the parish council as the registered provider for the project, successfully negotiated the acquisition of the site.

A Community Consultation event and input from the Parish Council helped to develop and inform the design of the scheme, leading up to the planning application being submitted in June 2018. To generate essential additional financial support for the delivery of the affordable homes, and thus reduce the requirement for public subsidy, the project also included two chalet bungalows developed for sale via a discounted local sale model agreed with the local authority. The model includes a discount of 25% off full market value, set in perpetuity, with local connection criteria designed to help families stay in the village.

The scheme was planned as a small group around a central green space to ensure the existing oak trees, the subject of a tree preservation order, remain adequately protected.

Just over seven years after the initial housing needs survey and site search was undertaken, the much-needed affordable homes for local people were completed in February 2020 and will remain an asset for the community in perpetuity. Fundamental to the success of the scheme has been the close working relationships between English Rural, the Diocese of Chelmsford, the parish council of Roxwell, and Chelmsford City Council.


Government announce changes to use of Right to Buy receipts

Councils in England will have more freedom on how they spend the money from homes sold through Right to Buy (the sale of a council house), to help them build the homes needed in their communities, under reforms announced on 20 March 2021 by Housing Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP.

Announcing the changes, government stated: “Today’s package will make it easier for councils to fund homes using Right to Buy receipts, including homes for social rent, and give them greater flexibility over the types of homes they provide to reflect the needs of their communities.

“It will also give councils more time to use receipts and to develop ambitious building programmes. The government wants homes supplied using Right to Buy receipts to be the best value for money, and to add to overall housing supply, to help towards delivering 300,000 new homes a year across England by the mid-2020s.”

These changes take effect from 1 April 2021, with the exception of a new acquisition cap, which will be introduced from 1 April 2022, on a phased basis.

You can read more via this link.


Peak District homes delivered in partnership with the community

Peak District Rural Housing Association have been working closely with the Bradwell Community Land Trust in the Peak District National Park, to provide 28 affordable homes in the village.

Bradwell is one of the larger villages in the Peak District National Park. It was once home to a large engineering works, Newburgh Engineering, before the works were relocated to a more suitable site in Rotherham.  The site of the works was granted planning permission for 55 houses, including 12 affordable homes. 

The Parish Council, knowing this development was likely, set out a neighbourhood plan incorporating the development. They also set up a Community Land Trust (CLT) to own the affordable units, ensuring they would be held in perpetuity for local people.

There are three elements to this scheme:

  • New development of 55 new homes, including 12 affordable homes
  • Purchase of x12 workers home
  • Potential conversion of Newburgh Hall, an old social club

The CLT appointed Peak District Rural Housing Association (PDRHA) to manage the new houses.  The first four of the 12 houses are completing in May 2021 and the management agreement between the two has been signed.

The CLT board become aware that 12 houses in Bradwell, originally built in the 1960s for workers at Newburgh, were for sale.  While some of the original workers lived in some of the houses, most of them had now been let on a private rental basis.  The CLT feared that this affordable housing for Bradwell people would be lost if they were sold to a private company, in this area of expensive housing. PDRHA worked with the CLT to purchase the properties.  On purchase, the freehold was passed to the CLT and the properties leased for 125 years to PDRHA. This arrangement ensures the houses are protected from the right to buy.

PDRHA have since completed a programme of upgrading the homes.

The CLT with PDRHA also negotiated the purchase of the old social club, Newburgh Hall. This will hopefully be converted into 4 one bedroomed affordable apartments. 

The whole community has benefitted from this successful partnership:

“This is a great "win" for the community.  The affordable homes are being donated to the village as planning gain, will be owned by the Bradwell Community Land Trust and will be made available to local people at affordable rents.”  Paul Downing, Chair - Bradwell Parish Council

“Bradwell Community Land Trust has entered into 3 projects with Peak District Rural Housing Association. Jointly, we are enabling 28 affordable houses to be provided or retained within the village. PDRHA has been a great partner and always willing to consider new ideas and provide advice and guidance.” Andy Nash, Chair - Bradwell CLT

“Since PDRHA took on the management of our homes, there’s been a massive difference straight away. We’ve had a lot of much-needed work done – new windows and doors and a new kitchen. We’re so grateful; our house is significantly warmer, and it looks so much better. Resident - upgraded 1960s home

Other partners involved in this project include Derbyshire Dales DC, Homes England, Peak District National Park Planning Authority and Sheffield City Region.


Rural affordable housing guide launched by Kent Housing Group

On Friday 19th February Kent Housing Group, in partnership with Action with Communities Rural Kent and English Rural Housing Association, launched the revised Guide to Developing Affordable Homes in Rural Communities.  This was a virtual launch of the revised protocol, which is made up of a series of fact sheets that can help with enabling development of homes in rural communities.

This Guide has been produced to address housing needs through the development of new affordable homes. It will reflect and offer advice and information that is relevant for a broad audience, with the guide being split into useful Fact Sheets.    This guide has been updated and is one of many key objectives outlined within the Kent and Medway Housing Strategy, a county wide high-level strategic plan that has been developed by Kent Housing Group over 2020.

The protocol, a short endorsement video and the recording of the launch are all available to view and download via this link.


Housing Insights from RSN

RSN Member Insights is the place to discover the statistics that define communities within membership of the Rural Services Network (RSN).  It is regularly updated with new analyses, and these will be highlighted in the 'What's New' section of the RSN's Weekly Rural Bulletin.  The Rural Bulletin also provides a selection of the most rurally topical news items, so do subscribe and encourage your colleagues to subscribe to what is an invaluable weekly periodical.

Updated Housing Insights and other housing related analyses can be accessed via this link.

To make a suggestion of data that would benefit you by being included in the Member Insights section, please email Dan Worth, RSN’s Research and Performance Analyst, at dan.worth@sparse.gov.uk


Rural Proofing report published

Government has published what is promised as the first in a series of annual reports designed to show how rural proofing is being implemented across government – an approach known as ‘rural proofing’. It fulfils a commitment to publish an annual report on rural proofing, made in response to the 2019 House of Lords Select Committee report ‘Time for a strategy for the rural economy’, which called for a strengthening of rural proofing and greater transparency.

The report includes a short section on rural housing. You can read the full report via this link.


Cirencester Housing seeks two new board members

Cirencester Housing is looking to appoint two exceptional candidates as non-executive board and/or audit committee members to contribute to the future success of a housing association that has been in existence since 1949.

They are looking for people who can demonstrate a passion for the social purpose of a small housing association to provide affordable housing and services that enable and sustain local communities and help people have a place to call home. 

In addition to meeting the general requirements of the role, they are particularly looking for candidates who can contribute in one or more of the following areas:

  • Lived experience similar to that of the Cirencester Housing’s customers
  • Strong connection & commitment to the local community in Cirencester and surrounding rural areas
  • Asset management, particularly on regeneration & sustainability

They welcome those who may not have experience of being a board or committee member to apply as full training is offered, as well as mentoring and other support to assist in fulfilling the roles. People from all backgrounds and experiences are encouraged to apply, and they welcome a diverse range of attributes and endeavour to be as flexible as possible to accommodate personal situations. 

The information pack is available to download from the Cirencester Housing website.


Online sessions to demonstrate the importance of rural affordable housing

English Rural is running a series of free, short, online sessions focused on how affordable rural housing changes lives and communities. The first session, taking place in April, has a particular focus on the New Forest.

David Barrowcliff of English Rural explains why these sessions are taking place: “We are in the midst of a housing crisis that is particularly acute in rural areas. Many local shops, pubs, schools and businesses are being forced to close simply because people cannot afford to live in their local rural community. We need these communities to thrive again for generations to come. By building small-scale developments of affordable homes, we give people the opportunity to remain in the communities they were brought up in and to live close to their jobs, families and support networks. In short, we need to build more homes in communities who need them.  We also need to nurture positive relationships with those who can make it happen.”

The sessions will feature a range of speakers who will talk about the benefits of affordable rural housing from their own perspective. Proposed speakers will include: Local Authorities, Parish Councils, landowners and residents. The sessions will use a mix of live presentations, video and Q&As.

You can find out more via this link.


Delivering ESG objectives

Investors are keen to deliver their ESG – Environmental, Social and Governance – objectives and a published paper sets out how housing providers can help do this and deliver their own objectives. Written by Jeffrey Ridley of Lincs Rural Housing Association with Savills, the paper pre-dates publication of the ‘Sustainability Reporting Standard for Social Housing’ which is available via this link.

You can read Jeffrey Ridley’s paper here


New community investment funds announced

The UK government has launched three new investment programmes to support communities across the country. These new investment programmes are:

  • The UK Community Renewal Fund – £220 million funding to help local areas prepare for the launch of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund in 2022. This Fund aims to support people and communities most in need across the UK to pilot programmes and new approaches and will invest in skills, community and place, local business, and supporting people into employment.
  • The Levelling Up Fund – £4.8 billion funding for investment in infrastructure that improves everyday life across the UK, including regenerating town centres and high streets, upgrading local transport, and investing in cultural and heritage assets.
  • The Community Ownership Fund – £150 million funding to help ensure that communities across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland can support and continue benefiting from the local facilities, community assets and amenities most important to them.

Details of all funds including guidance and bidding details are available on the government’s website.

Keep Calm and Join Up!

RSN exists to enable the issues facing the rural areas of England to be identified, information and good practice to be shared and government to be challenged to address the needs and build on the opportunities which abound in rural areas.

If you know a rural housing organisation that would benefit from membership, please ask them to consider joining us.  RSN is a solely rural focussed organisation with an electronic distribution network in excess of 25,000 individuals.  We reach right across all the rural areas of England and provide a sustained and respected voice for rural areas at national level.  Anyone who wants to talk to us about our role and services in relation to rural housing should contact Andy Dean to find out more.

RSN exists to share information, promote good practice and represent the voice of rural England at a national level.  Check out the website for more information.

To find out more about membership for rural housing associations and to join up, contact Andy Dean

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