Building Estates on Estates
As part of its recommendations in the RICS Rural Policy Paper, RICS, the Royal Institute for Chartered Surveyors, has been calling for the owners of large country estates to release their land to be used for affordable housing. The policy paper proposes that some of the UK’s large rural estates should be encouraged to allow the land to be built on and sets out suggestions on how local and central government could manage rural land more effectively and support countryside and rural communities. RICS is also recommending that the government extend the current devolution agenda to market towns to boost rural economies even more.
There’s already been a pioneering development scheme in East Devon where the county’s largest private land owner, Lord Clinton, has collaborated with Cornerstone Housing Association to develop 19 affordable homes in the town of Budleigh Salterton with some properties available for rental while others are shared ownership properties. The Horizon development as it became known won a gold award at the national WhatHouse? Awards for the Best Partnership Scheme in Britain. The judges were impressed by the sense of how much each of the stakeholders genuinely cared about the scheme’s delivery and success which has had positive effects on the new community this development houses.
Head of Policy at RICS, Jeremy Blackburn believes that affordable rural housing is on the decrease with a reported 76% shortfall in rural affordable housing. This is bad news for rural towns and villages and if these communities are to thrive in the 21st Century action needs to be taken right now to ensure that there are workers available to drive rural economies. Rural poverty has become a serious issue here in the UK in recent years as more and more young families discover that they cannot afford to live in the towns and villages where they were brought up. This results in younger people moving to towns and cities where housing is more affordable.
Rural communities then suffer the problem of becoming dormitory communities, with the residents commuting to work in nearby cities and doing most of their socialising and shopping in the cities rather than within their own communities. Rural shops and businesses suffer a sharp downturn in income, often going out of business and closing their doors leaving the rural communities without the necessary amenities that shape a community.
Many of the youngsters who leave rural communities do so reluctantly in order to access jobs and housing. While many are determined to move back to the countryside when they can afford to do so, this is not often possible and the rural communities dwindle as there are no younger people to keep the community life going.
Here in the UK we’re an inclusive society and that means that we need to take an inclusive attitude towards our rural communities and design policies that will help them thrive in the future. While we’re always being made aware by the media of the problems that come from city and town dwelling, we rarely see any mention of the countryside and rural areas. They too have their problems, they’re just different problems and can only be solved by taking a different approach.