The Editor Western Telegraph
Debbie James’ in her Feb 2nd article on affordable housing in rural areas, reports that landowners are disappointed about the recent statement by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister that no element of cross subsidy would be allowed on “exception sites” to facilitate the building of such homes.
Unreported was ODPM’s preface to this that “the changes to guidance are designed to remove barriers to delivering affordable homes in rural areas and free up unused employment land where it could be better used for housing”. Confused? Consider further.
Exception sites for rural housing have been part of the system in the U.K for many years. But in rural Wales they are practically unknown despite the pressing need for more affordable housing. If the rules are left unchanged as ODPM apparently prefers, exception sites remain totally irrelevant to their announced objective?
Welsh planning and housing policy is now devolved to the Assembly and there is nothing to stop our minister taking a view different from ODPM when the current Welsh review of affordable housing policy (the revision of Technical Advice Note 2) is completed in April. Legislators in Wales might figure that the situation in rural Wales is distinctive and so serious that they need to make something actually happen.
The impression given by the article is that exception sites involve the use of farmland. In fact the effect of most planning policies is to rule out any housing development in rural areas which does not meet strict settlement infill criteria. This means that other land too close to a settlement to be farmed, or is otherwise “brownfield”, is usually the first and only option for an exception site.
But as history shows, owners and planning officers cannot make these sites work under current rules. If WAG endorses ODPM’s stated intention to get more affordable homes built in rural areas, and to “free up unused employment land where it could be better used for housing”, it will have to change this ruling or else find ways other than exception sites to make it happen. If they do not it will be those vainly seeking homes in rural areas who will be most disappointed.