I have been asked to reply.
The Government are committed to addressing the housing, employment and social needs of rural communities in ways that are sustainable and compatible with the protection of the countryside. Our advice to local planning authorities about development in rural areas is set out in Planning Policy Guidance Note 2, “Green Belts” (PPG2), Planning Policy Statement 3, “Housing” (PPS3) and Planning Policy Statement 7, “Sustainable Development in Rural Areas” (PPS7). For example, a key principle of PPS7 is that new building development in the open countryside away from existing settlements, or outside areas allocated for development in the local plan, should be strictly controlled.
We set up the Affordable Rural Housing Commission in summer 2005 to look into the availability of affordable housing in rural areas. Following publication of the Commission’s report in May 2006, we have responded positively to the majority of their (over 100) recommendations where they were directed at Communities and Local Government. Many of the recommendations are embodied in Planning Policy Statement 3, “Housing” (PPS3).
Published in November 2006, PPS3 highlights the need to provide market and affordable housing in all areas, including rural areas. The delivery of housing in rural areas should respect the key principles underpinning PPS3 of providing high quality housing that contributes to the creation and maintenance of sustainable rural communities in market towns and villages. New housing, particularly in the examples of very small villages and hamlets, would need to be carefully considered and managed so as not to have adverse impacts on those areas which would actually undermine sustainable development objectives.
We also invited the hon. Member for Truro and St. Austell (Matthew Taylor) to carry out an independent review of economics and affordable housing provision in the countryside. His report, Living Working Countryside, came out in July 2008, and its recommendations are being given thorough consideration: we will publish our response shortly.