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Working with rural communities to provide affordable homes

Monday 5 July 2021

With our area of operation covering many rural communities in North Yorkshire, we are committed to investing in these communities to provide much-needed affordable housing.

Often local people can find themselves priced out of the community they have grown up in, with housing costs driven up by the desire of many to relocate to the countryside for more green space, fresher air and a slower pace of life. The average rural property price has risen by 20.8% in the last five years, 3.3% more than in urban areas, further increasing the demand for affordable housing. The addition of new, affordable homes to these areas encourages local people to stay in their community, which in turn helps to support and sustain vital services within the villages.

Providing housing in rural areas can be complex. We’re committed to working with local authorities that cover rural areas, working collaboratively with their Rural Housing Enablers (RHE) to help identify the housing needs in a particular rural community, so we can begin to build much-needed homes.

Together with the RHE, we’ve been working with one such rural community in Hambleton for several years. The local parish council has been working with the RHE for approximately eight years, establishing a neighbourhood development plan. Based on this plan, a steering group has carried out various housing surveys to identify the types of housing needs within the parish. They have also looked at various potential sites within the village to provide this housing. The majority of these sites were not suitable due to their location, size or access availability to the site.

Following a second ‘call for sites’, it was found that a suitable site at the local primary school and playing fields had become available due to the closure of the school. The site has two separate owners, the diocese and North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC). The diocese land is within the development boundary, whilst the NYCC land is outside of the existing development boundary.

The diocese land is within the development boundary, whilst the NYCC land is outside of the existing development boundary. Beyond Housing approached both the diocese and NYCC with a view to purchasing the land and developing the site for housing. Both parties welcomed the opportunity to sell the site for affordable housing, with offers agreed subject to planning and Homes England funding being received.

Within the parish’s neighbourhood development plan a need was identified for affordable housing, through either rented homes or shared ownership, as well as a need for homes available for outright sale. The housing surveys also identified the types of homes needed, from one-bedroom homes for single people and couples, to two and three-bedroom homes for families and bungalows for the ageing population. We then appointed an architect and design team to draw up a development design that met the needs of the parish. Various consultation events were held with the parish to discuss the options for the site, with support and agreement being reached on the proposals.

The scheme has received planning permission, but the site has many complexities and the cost of development is far higher than originally anticipated. This has meant that building homes for open market sale is no longer financially viable. However, we’re continuing to work with Homes England and Hambleton Council to obtain grants in order to provide a mixed tenure, fully affordable housing development. The tenures would include rent to buy, shared ownership, discounted market sale as well as affordable rent. As this means a change to the neighbourhood plan requirements, an additional housing needs survey has been carried out in the parish, identifying there is sufficient housing need for these tenures. We are currently working with the parish council to agree support of the new proposals and hope to soon be on site developing this scheme.

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