Community engagement the answer to delivering high-quality affordable homes in the countryside

Rural housing specialists are calling on Government to renew its White Paper commitment to encourage communities to be more involved in housing design.
The call comes as MPs are set to debate the quality and design of new housing tomorrow when Parliament returns from Summer Recess. The debate, which will be led by Efra Committee Chair Neil Parish (MP for Tiverton and Honiton), will consider how we can encourage better design of new homes.

Hastoe, which owns or manages more than 7,500 homes across the south of rural England, has argued that to increase support for new homes in rural areas, developers must take a collaborative approach and work with the local community in order to deliver more beautiful high-quality homes for local people.

Hastoe Chief Executive Sue Chalkley said: “The government’s White Paper published earlier this year explicitly stated the intention for communities to have a more direct say over development in their area.

“We know from years of practice that the most successful developments are those conceived by the community and delivered in partnership with it.

“This engagement on the number, location and design of new homes shapes how the homes look and are constructed, often helping to specify the use of local materials or reflecting the scale and architectural style of other neighbouring homes. This also helps to build popular support for the development and a sense of pride for all involved in the project.

"However in order to keep local people at the heart of new rural developments, Government must renew its commitment to community engagement by ensuring continued wide access to the Community Housing Fund – regardless of whether the developer is a housing association, local landowner or community land trust.”

The housing association also argued that as well as community engagement, sustainability must also be an integral aspect of new housing design.

Sue Chalkley said: “Hastoe specialises in providing affordable rural homes but, for us, the affordability of a home is more than just the rent or mortgage costs. Instead affordability should be built into the fabric of a building through highly energy efficient design.

“This commitment to sustainability from the outset can help deliver tangible benefits to residents and to the environment.

“Government should take action to ensure that all new homes are built to these high standards through support for affordable house builders willing to make the necessary investment in innovative approaches to energy efficiency.”

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