Low-cost housing threat in Midhurst and Petworth area

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PLANS to allow small developments to go ahead without any affordable housing in them have been criticised by Midhurst county councillor Gordon McAra.

The department for communities and local government has been canvassing opinion on proposals to introduce a ten-unit threshold for ‘section 106’ affordable housing contributions.

But Cllr McAra claimed the plan could spell the end of new less expensive homes in rural areas. “The government may be on the path to destroying any prospect of any new affordable housing in rural areas,” he said.

“Their proposals to allow developers to build up to ten houses without making any provision for affordable housing shows that they have no feeling or concern for rural areas.

“At the moment, two thirds of rural affordable housing comes through money provided by S106 agreements and as most rural developments are small, certainly less than ten houses, this contribution would be lost, destroying the possibility of much needed affordable housing being built.”

He added: “I do despair that the people in Whitehall haven’t a clue about the countryside and how affordable housing is provided, especially given that successive governments have destroyed the public finances and our communities are having to pick up the pieces without any say.”

The Rural Services Network (RSN) has also urged the government to abandon the proposals.

It has already responded to a government consultation on the proposals and now RSN chief executive Graham Biggs has written to communities minister Brandon Lewis.

“The ten-home threshold would be nothing short of ruinous for the provision of affordable housing in rural areas,” said Mr Biggs.

He added most developments were small with the vast majority below the ten unit threshold – not least because the smaller the scheme, the less the local opposition.

If the ten unit threshold was imposed he told the minister, the ‘hope value’ would increase significantly that all new homes could be sold at full market value which would make it extremely difficult to persuade owners to part with land on the special terms usually applying to ‘rural exception sites’.

“Its consequences would be no less than catastrophic.

“It also would fly in the face of localism and would seriously undermine the national planning policy framework. Such a proposal has clearly not being rurally proofed.”

To meet these concerns, the RSN is calling on the government to exempt – at the very least – all sites in villages of less than 3,000 population.