Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Rural Housing Crisis

Important article in today's Telegraph about the problems facing young people in rural England - who are finding the first housing ladder rung too high to reach. Something called the Commission for Rural Communities has discovered that in 53 rural areas of England, the average price of a house is over 10 times the average local salary. In many parts of England - the South, West Midlands and the North - young people are being forced to move away from their home areas just to find somewhere to buy. This undermines community stability and creates ghettos of lifeless tranquility.

So it isn't just Wales then! What makes it even more of an issue for us is that when young people are forced to move it undermines our own Welsh Language as well as community stability. This problem has attracted much talk and precious little action for years. And usually, people start talking about social and Council housing as if its the answer. To my market orientated thought process the best response to shortage is an increase in supply. We need more houses to be built - which means that Local Planning Authorities have to rethink their current approach. Not easy, I grant you. All of our planners seem to have been trained to find reasons to refuse applications rather than approve them. And there is the utterly stupid, lifestyle destroying planner's obsession with building on every green space in our villages and towns rather than on rural sites, no matter how well screened or un-prominent they are.

This is an old hobby horse of mine. Whenever I start banging on about it, people with letters after their names start accusing me of not caring about the countryside. The assumption seems to be that anything outside the thick black 'Colditz' lines on planner's maps which 'fence the people in' is on a prominent hill that can be seen for miles. Its time we expected our planners to be trained to have at least some element of subjective judgement.

I daresay the first comment will be about this change putting up the price of my own land. But I don't see why I should not be allowed to hold an opinion - just because it would benefit me. This is just about the biggest problem facing Government in Wales. Its a shame that the sheer distaste for the idea of the private sector solving the problem - and making some money at the same time - has so far proved too much for the Assembly Governments that we have had so far.


Martin Eaglestone said...

Oh no Glyn- one of those people with letters behind his name !

However it is also my hope that plannig authrotities explore more proactive use of the powers I beleive have already been given to them in June 2006 to help lever in/release more land for affordable housing, including taking the proactive step of identifying land specifically for affordable housing.

My reading of the guidance is that LPAs can act - it needs a mindset and a will to do so.

There is that understandable concern that it can be abused, but should that "fear" override the need in our communities ?. The process at a local level can be too risk averse, and fearful of nimbys/ombudsman etc etc.

Positive idea one : Why not have a "task force" in your new seat to help identify positive and suitable opprtunities ?? (free idea for you, but copyright Eaglestone 2007!)

Glyn Davies said...

martin - can't see much to disagree with, as long as any land for affordable housing is additional land and not just another restriction on the private sector.

I agree that LPAs could be more inventive - but it needs a lead from national government. there is just no urgency being shown in dealing with this problem.

I really like you referring to it as my 'new seat'.

Anonymous said...

Glyn. You'll see I've touched on this in my blog on several occasions.

I completely agree with you. However, the planning authorities seem hell bent on giving permission for housing developments in small communities without considering the infratructure issue.

Look at Newtown and Tregynon. The roads to large-scale 100 plus housing developments are no more than lanes.

Young people need good quality housing to get on the housing ladder around here but there needs to be careful consideration about the wider implications.

House prices are a minimum of £110,000 for a starter home. What young person in a village in Montgomeryshire is going to have the salary to cope with that.

The other factor is sewerage and water. When new pumping stations come into operation it opens the planning floodgate for housing developments. But while it's great to have such sewerage facilities, nobody thinks about the roads, schools, shops and post offices and other important social facilities required.

Glyn Davies said...

Montgomeryshire has become a favoured location for development - and the question is whether the Planning Authority are up to the challenges this brings with it. The LPA made a total mess of the Lidl application in Newtown - and is getting itself into another one with the Tesco proposal. the whole basis on which the Council's sale to Tesco is based is that there is not a more convenient site for retail nearer the town centre. The Bowling Club proposal has blown that argument apart. I don't think the planners know what they think now.

Matt Wright said...

Glyn, Your not alone in thinking what you do on this issue. The planning laws are "arse about face". We need to move towards a presumption in favour of ultra low density housing in the countryside. The emergence of little hamlets of say 3 or 4 houses dotted about the countryside would see a re-awakening of rural areas and have no negative visual impact. Also we should encourage a communities that construct their own low costs housing such as timber/log constructions in open countryside. All this would be far better than blanket quotas for affordable housing on large estates that really just attract people from far and wide,


Anonymous said...

Hi Glyn

Let me give you an example of the madness of planning. I am youngish 30 and in need of a home. The actual salary I would gain max around these parts is around 15 to 17k a year. I have been given some land by my family to develop a house right next door to my fathers house. Right now it is the only way for me to afford a new home. A typical 2 bedroom is 145000 lol and a three bedroom for a starter family is 185000 even more amusing...

The actual costs and loan for building this house on this land is around 55,000 in my eyes this is a reasonable cost to me based on my potential wage. This is the max the lending company will provide based on my wages.

The planning office have a land limit and a back garden minimum size 10.5 meters which is stopping the actual building process dead in its tracks(its 6M in depth and 10m wide ) ,. Even though it can handle 3 car parking spaces and a modest back garden big enough for the likes of myself. It is still considered over development by their vague guildlines. The actual area size of the house in percentage is 29.8 percent just less than a third. Is this really over development or are bridgend policies (on a whim guidlines) a little on the dictatorship side.

Between a 2 bedroom and a 3 bedroom the house size is around 6 percent bigger.. with long term thought I would prefer a 3 bedroom saving me from moving into a larger house (which i couldnt afford anyway in case I do decide to start a family). Everything with the bridgend council has been short sighted and clearly a dictatorship with their own planning agendas. What they fail to realise is they are not the ones paying the costs.

So where do I go with this now... my life, my future is hanging in the balance. With the ideal gift of land it would stop a looming debt over my head in the future.

Want to know the funny thing on the bridgend website... "Our policies are for the people" lol. More like for their way of forcing larger land requirments per house meaning it will cost the developers more thus having to increase the sales price thus we pay the HIGH cost of the house and then a higher long term council tax due to the band value.. and if this green tax comes in... well it doesnt take a genuis to work out the agenda and legal scam of these policies.. Also Eco policies to reduce energy wastage... wouldnt larger land maintenance costs contradict the eco policies with planning regulations...

So far we have wasted so much time because the guidelines are so vague its impossible even for a solicitor / arhectect to come to any conclusion. It's pot luck more than anything... The details are buried in tons of jargon and no down to earth top ten recommendations for developers.

Some areas require a minimum size like a main town or congested living area.. but we are in a small place called cornelly which is far from congested.. how can they apply a generic guildline system when it really only applies to main towns where it really is required and busy. Even then it seems that a 3000 square feet of land would cost quite a bit for a 3 bedroom house near a main town.

Any advice on this and how to challenge these mad policies would be welcome.. I'm clearly sucked off with all of this and it is effecting my future!!!



PS. I have many friends in the same situation and North Cornelly has had more refused planning applications than most areas... I find it just odd!

Anonymous said...

by the way the large developers do not seem to have these problems in cornelly the refusals are generally one offs made by us small folk... When will the law actually help the ones at the bottom instead of those with millions or are part of a large company its clearly unfair.. or is it the fact they will not take on such companies with large legal clout..

Anonymous said...

A question

A policy has to be justified with a practicality behind it

I was brought up in a 3 bedroom house with a very small backyard. We were fine with that as the cost of maintenance was practically ZERO. (we couldnt afford to maintain a large garden anyway) IT worked fine for us such a small patch and even now its ideal. Why are these policies in place when they are not really of any use to us.

Privacy I can understand but where the house is situated is well under the privacy distance threshold.

May 2005 policy regarding (EV45) is just completely over the top. SO why does it exist when there are thousands of houses with very small gardens that have worked very well for the home owners for the last 40 years.

IF I WANT recreation I go out and not my back garden lol

Why the concern with large gardens in the last few years... no offence but i couldn't care for a large garden i havent got the time for it! got to pay off those mounting debts as its far more of a priority...

The planning authorities justification ... people require it for recreational use when it is not raining...the funny part (when its not raining lol we are in WALES for gods sake it rains virtually all the time).

So my point is this policy is just made up for the sake of giving councilors something to do... or is just a way to force the younger and older generations out of more cash,, as if its not bad enough as it is..

AS said...

@Danial: I hope you will find a nice affordable home in Wales nevertheless. I am 36.