Rural communities will be ‘preserved in aspic’ by housing white paper


Rural communities in the national park look set to ‘remain preserved in aspic’ with no lifeline thrown to them by the government’s new white paper on housing.

Calling it a ‘lost opportunity’ chairman of Midhurst Town Council’s planning committee and county councillor Gordon McAra added with average house prices in Midhurst at £420,000 it was difficult to see how young people would ever get a foot on the home ownership ladder.

Mr McAra told fellow members of the committee: “In the new White Paper, the Government asks local authorities to be as ambitious and innovative as possible to get homes built in their area.

“The Government also highlights that small sites can also help to meet rural housing needs in ways that are sensitive to their setting while allowing villages to thrive.

“So the White Paper says all the right things about the value of small rural sites and the real need for affordable housing and indeed gives a couple of case studies of what could be achieved in a town like Midhurst.”

But he said at the same time it had decided to “effectively maintain much more rigorous planning criteria for special areas including national parks, which makes the White Paper pretty irrelevant to this area and may also not be viewed as not very helpful by the planning authorities.”

The inevitable result of this, he added: “will mean that our rural communities will remain preserved in aspic.”

For rural parishes in the South Downs National Park such as Midhurst and Petworth, said Mr McAra, the White Paper was a ‘lost opportunity’ but he added: “I hope our local planers will none the less take the whole thrust of the Government’s intentions into account in future planning decisions.”

Chairman of the South Downs National Park Authority Margaret Paren said officers and members were examining the paper for their formal response.

“The South Downs is the most wooded National Park in England and half of this is ancient woodland so proposals to increase protection for this important habitat could be very significant,” she said. We also welcome the emphasis on brownfield sites, continued recognition of constraints to the amount of development national parks can accommodate and the importance of making small sites count. We will be scrutinising the details of the paper further as we prepare our formal response to the Government’s consultation.”

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