Rural Housing Week: What is a rural exception site?

To celebrate rural housing week, we are championing the use of rural exception sites to bring forward affordable, good quality homes for rural communities.

As the National Planning Policy Framework explains a rural exception site is a small plot of agricultural land, usually brought forward at a fraction of open market value, that can be used for housing. The only catch is that the homes built must be affordable forever and are reserved solely for local people.

These sites are usually relatively small and generally located to the edge of an existing village, meaning that building extra homes there will not over-burden existing infrastructure in or around the village.

That these sites exist at all is usually thanks to the generosity of rural landowners who gift or sell the land to a housing association at a low price, maximising the affordability of the homes that will be built there.

Around one fifth of all rural affordable homes last year were built on rural exception sites – making a vital contribution to rural housing supply.

Most importantly though these sites are led by the community – true community-led development. Schemes built on rural exception sites provide the community and the landowners with a good experience and one which often leads to a request for a second, third or even forth scheme deleivered in the same way. This is development done the right way round and led by the people who need it.

Case study: Newport, Essex

Hastoe Housing is working with Newport Parish Council and Uttlesford District Council to bring 34 new affordable homes to Newport.

The fact that affordable homes can be built at all in the village, is thanks to the hard work of a lot of people and the generosity of local landowners, the Salmon family. Hastoe bought an unused field off Cambridge Road, from the family at a fraction of its normal open market value – this low price has enabled Hastoe to build affordable homes on the land.

After securing the land, Hastoe consulted with the Parish Council and the wider community about their plans and to understand the village’s housing needs. This will help Hastoe make sure that the homes not only look good, but are the mix of houses and flats that the community needs. In November 2014, Hastoe showed their proposed designs at a village drop in-meeting and work on-site started in November last year, with a stone-laying ceremony attended by the Rt. Hon. Sir Alan Haselhurst MP, the Salmon family and members of the Parish Council.
There will be a total of 34 affordable homes on the site – 25 houses and flats for affordable rent and nine houses for shared ownership – all of which will be prioritised for people with a local connection. The builders are on site right now and Hastoe hopes that all the homes will be completed and ready to move into by early 2018.

Hastoe has held a series of information events about the development to keep local people updated and to launch the marketing of the nine shared ownership homes. But the completion of the homes won’t be the end of Hastoe’s involvement in Newport. As Ulrike Maccariello, Hastoe’s Development Manager, explained: “Hastoe is not a normal housing developer. We are a non profit-making housing association that builds small numbers of environmentally-friendly and affordable homes in rural communities. We are delighted to be building new homes in Newport and we will manage these homes once they have been built, for many years to come.

“All over the country, rural communities are declining as local people have to leave in search of somewhere affordable to live. Because the homes that we build are more affordable and prioritised for local people, Hastoe helps people stay in their local area – keeping rural communities together.”


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