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Rural homes concern

PUBLISHED: 06:00 04 August 2011 | UPDATED: 17:49 04 August 2011

RURAL communities could “shrivel and die” if the Government fails to build enough affordable housing in the countryside, campaigners are warning.

New figures showed that local authorities planned to build only a fraction of the required number of inexpensive homes in 2010-11.

Of 135 rural and semi-rural councils in England, there was an identified annual need of 76,532 homes but a target of only 17,208 - a shortfall of 78%.

No figures were provided for the Countryside Alliance’s study by Mid Suffolk or Waveney District Councils but data from St Edmundsbury Borough and Babergh District Councils showed that, respectively, they would be meeting 61% and 60% of need - some of the highest results in the country.

Data for Suffolk Coastal District Council indicated that just 14% of the required homes were planned - a figure the council disputed, saying targets set by its housing needs survey had been met.

A spokesman said: “Suffolk Coastal is not a housing authority and the only way in which it can encourage new affordable homes to be built is through its planning policies.

“These have been altered in recent years to encourage more affordable homes to be built, which includes insisting that a percentage of any new medium to large housing development should be affordable homes.”

The Countryside Alliance warned that a lack of affordable rural homes could lead to the break-up of communities and a loss of services.

Chief executive Alice Barnard said: “The research highlights that affordable housing provision is a huge challenge. But if the rural need for affordable housing is not addressed, and urgently, many of those communities upon which our countryside depends will shrivel and die.”

A Communities and Local Government spokesman said councils were being given “substantial extra funding” if they build new homes, with extra cash for affordable homes.

This week we challenged our iWitness community to take test their artistic skills with the theme silhouettes.

Suffolk is one of 10 areas running a pilot scheme for the year which allows councils to retain 100% of the business rates it collects and invest it into the county.

It could be the sale of the century as Sutton Hall Estate, near Woodbridge, including an eight bedroom Georgian house, 11 more cottages and farmhouses, two barns and more than 2170 acres is up for sale.

Suffolk and Essex are forecast yet another day of warm temperatures and glorious sunshine – though there is also a chance of some long-awaited rain for eastern parts.

Intensive care beds at an Ipswich mental health ward are likely to stay closed until the autumn, it can be revealed.

Speed limits through roadwork on the A14 and A12 could be increased under new plans aimed to ease drivers’ frustration with delays.

A crack down on organised crime will see increased patrols in Essex this week.

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