Rural Housing Week 4 July to 8 July 2022

04 Jul 2022

Members of West Suffolk Council and Orbit Group at the opening of the rural exception scheme in Beck Row which saw the development of 39 affordable homes for those with a local connection to the village and surrounding parishes.

As part of Rural Housing Week which is a national campaign running from 4 July to 8 July 2022, West Suffolk Council is highlighting the importance of its work supporting our rural communities. New and affordable housing plays a role in sustaining our rural communities and supporting important rural services such as village halls, shops and pubs and transport.

The council is working on a new local plan for West Suffolk Council, which will provide an opportunity for us to consider the best place for new housing growth, to meets needs established by the Government. West Suffolk Council also continues to secure affordable homes as planning applications come forward for the sites in our existing local plan. The current council policy requires developments of 10 homes or more to include 30 per cent affordable housing. Under the new West Suffolk Local Plan, it is proposed that for development on greenfield sites, this will be increased to 40 per cent affordable housing.

Last year the council met the annual housing target set by Government and delivered 257 affordable homes, of which just under 10 per cent were across our rural communities.

The council knows there is a need for more affordable housing. A snapshot on the 1 June 2022, showed that West Suffolk Council had 2063 households on its housing register. This compares to 2124 for the same time last year. Being on the housing register does not mean that a household doesn’t already have a home or even an affordable home. It means the household, whether it be a person living on their own, a couple or a family, is waiting to find suitable affordable housing for their needs within West Suffolk. This could be to up or downsize or move to a different location.

An example of rural housing in West Suffolk

Rural housing can benefit a wide range of people within a community, from those wishing to make their first step onto the housing ladder to those wishing to downsize. Communities have the power to influence change, by planning for a thriving and sustainable future in a number of ways. This includes engaging with consultation at key stages in the local plan preparation. The West Suffolk Local Plan “Preferred Options consultation is open until 26 July . Communities can also prepare their neighbourhood plans which can allocate housing. In June 2021, the council agreed the adoption of Great Barton Neighbourhood Plan and there are currently seven other communities who have started work on this process. In addition, the council has a rural exception policy which supports the delivery of affordable housing for local people in rural areas.

Rural exception sites are small sites that are acquired for affordable housing where development would not otherwise be permitted. The aim is to provide housing for people who have a local connection to a particular village and who would otherwise be unable to afford housing within that village. They are most commonly located next to the existing village boundary but outside of the current settlement boundary. The sites are usually no bigger than 10 dwellings. In most cases, all dwellings will be affordable. However, a minimum amount of open market housing may be included if it is required to make the scheme financially viable.

West Suffolk has seen exception sites brought forward in Beck Row, Clare, Freckenham, Great Barton, Icklingham, and Worlington.

West Suffolk have recently worked in partnership with Community Action Suffolk to assist in pro-actively working with a number of parish councils to bring forward affordable housing in rural areas. Community Action Suffolk is currently working with two parish councils to identify local housing need. Cambridgeshire Acre is also now working with one parish council to investigate housing needs. Community Action Suffolk is hosting webinars to support Rural Housing Week and this can be found on the Community Action Suffolk website.

West Suffolk has also supported the new Eastern Community Homes Hub which will provide expertise advice, support and practical resources for groups including parish councils interested in affordable community-led housing projects. Eastern Community Homes, which are part of Cambridgeshire Acre, will be hosting a webinar on the 6 July 2:00pm to 3:30pmto showcase the Cambridgeshire Rural Affordable Housing Partnership and will demonstrate what rural affordable housing can look like.

West Suffolk Council is keen to work with parish councils and communities to investigate housing need. If you are interested in discussing how the council can support the delivery of neighbourhood plans, rural affordable housing or exception schemes in your area, please contact housing.development@westsuffolk.gov.uk

For more see our Rural Housing webpage.


Posted in categories: press release, news