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Housing: Rural Areas

Volume 709: debated on Wednesday 25 March 2009


My right honourable friend the Minister for Housing and Planning (Margaret Beckett) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and I are today publishing the Government’s response to the report from the honourable Member for Truro and St Austell (Matthew Taylor), Living, Working Countryside.

In September 2007, the Prime Minister asked the honourable Member to undertake a review on how land use and planning can better support rural businesses and deliver affordable housing and to report to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Minister of State for Housing and Planning. The final report of the review, with detailed recommendations, was published in July 2008. The review identified the specific challenges facing rural areas but recognises that, “contrary to an often outdated view of the countryside, the economies of rural and urban England are much more alike than many people might imagine”. The Government will therefore give local authorities more flexibility to tackle the issues their communities face.

Our response sets out our proposals to take forward most of the review’s 48 recommendations to continue to encourage a prosperous rural economy and improve the delivery of affordable rural homes. This will help businesses, councils and the wider community, particularly in the current challenging economic conditions, and will assist rural communities in becoming more sustainable.

We welcome the review as giving important emphasis to what it takes to develop and sustain a strong rural economy, and improve access to a range of housing. In response to the review’s recommendations, we are announcing new approaches which local planning authorities and rural communities should adopt to improve the rural economy and encourage more affordable housing to be built in the countryside in appropriate places.

This includes:

ensuring that masterplanning is properly understood, and widely used, and running a competition to encourage good practice. In this context, masterplanning primarily means spatial masterplanning, as an approach to achieve the sustainable expansion of small or medium-sized settlements in particular;

setting up a practitioners’ working group to explore ways to incentivise landowners to use the existing rural exception sites policy, where local planning authorities can grant permission for small-scale housing development as an exception to their normal policies of countryside protection;

bringing together a number of existing planning policy statements covering economic development topics into a single new planning policy statement on planning for prosperity. This will be published for consultation shortly; and

publishing proposals for taking forward the use of community land trusts, which can enable local communities to work together to meet their own housing needs, alongside details to create protected areas where shared ownership homes need to be retained for future purchasers. These proposals, too, will be published for consultation shortly.

A copy of the Government’s response is available in the Library of the House.