National Rural Housing Week, 10-16 June, is a chance to celebrate what is happening to help local people to remain living in the countryside. And in West Somerset and North Devon, there is a lot to celebrate.
The Chadwyck Close scheme at Villes Lane in Porlock approaches completion and the 12 rented homes will be occupied very soon. The three shared ownership homes are still available and provide a rare opportunity for local people to get a foot on the home-ownership ladder. “Priority will be given to people from Porlock or the adjoining parishes, but anyone with a strong connection to the Exmoor National Park area would be considered”, said Rob Aspray from Hastoe Housing Association. Anyone interested should contact the Hastoe sales team on 0800 783 3097.
Hastoe is also close to submitting a planning application to West Somerset Council for a scheme including 20 affordable homes and 5 open market houses, all new build, and ten more homes through the conversion of historic barns. The affordable homes are aiming to achieve the Passivhaus standard*, providing high levels of energy efficiency and very low heating costs.
Elsewhere in West Somerset, Falcon Rural Housing have started work on a scheme for 5 homes at Crowcombe, and expect to have them completed later this year.
Across in North Devon, English Rural Housing Association are leading on a scheme of 5 open market and 6 affordable homes in Filleigh where the planning application will be made shortly. Nearby in East Anstey parish, they are the preferred housing association partner for a scheme which will revitalise the former Blackerton care village, providing 9 new affordable homes for families and young people from the three adjoining parishes.
“These are the bigger schemes” says Colin Savage, Rural Housing Enabler, “but there are smaller ones as well. North Devon Homes have built three new homes in Instow, have four more on site in Bratton Fleming, and have obtained two more in West Buckland through planning gain. Devon and Cornwall Housing association have been the affordable housing partner in a development in Landkey, providing 5 new homes for local people”.
Private developers also play their part. “Changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) now allow open market housing to help fund affordable housing on “Exception” sites. We are looking at opportunities to do this in both West Somerset and North Devon, with schemes as small as five homes which would previously not have been viable. We have small developers and a Passivhaus specialist drawing up outline proposals.”
It is not just about new build development. The Rural Housing Project has worked with Empty Properties teams at both North Devon Council and West Somerset Council to bring older empty buildings back into use. Flats above a former pub in Lynton have been refurbished by North Devon Homes with support from North Devon Council and the old Doctors surgery in Dulverton will both produce flats and houses to rent or buy.
Planning policies in Exmoor National Park allow local people to build their own affordable home on an “Exception” site, or to convert a redundant building into a home in a village or farmstead. In these cases, as with all affordable rural housing, there are planning restrictions controlling occupancy to local people who cannot afford open market housing.
On June 20, the Rural Housing Project will be running a drop-in event in Lynton, showing details of housing schemes that are in the pipeline, including schemes brought forward by private developers and North Devon Homes. This will enable local people looking for a home to see what is coming, and to identify where they might like to live. It should also identify where there are gaps in what is being provided, so that opportunities to meet these needs can be pursued using the Neighbourhood Plan, which could be in place later this year if people vote in favour of it in a referendum. The drop-in event will run from 3.00 – 7.30pm at the United Reformed Church on Lee Road in Lynton.
Executive Member for Housing at North Devon Council, Faye Webber, says: “I’m very pleased with the progress that the Rural Housing Project is making to tackle affordable housing problems in rural areas. It’s very important that our young people have the opportunity to stay in the villages where they were raised. The lack of homes being built in these areas can force people out and this can result in communities breaking down.”
*The core of the Passivhaus Standard is to dramatically reduce the requirement for space heating and cooling, whilst creating excellent indoor air quality and comfort levels.
Exmoor National Park Authority
Tel: 01398 323665
Direct Line: 01398 322244
Mobile: 07772 092128
Visit Our Website at http://www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk