Report highlights rural problems

RURAL communities across East Anglia are suffering from a lack of amenities and are in urgent need of new affordable housing, new research has revealed.

Elliot Furniss

RURAL communities across East Anglia are suffering from a lack of amenities and are in urgent need of new affordable housing, new research has revealed.

A survey commissioned by the National Housing Federation, which represents England's housing associations, found that nearly 60% of people living in the region believed the Government cared more about the issues faced by people in towns and cities than those living in rural areas.

The survey revealed that 70% of the 1,000 people questioned would support the building of new affordable housing where they live.

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Furthermore, nearly half of East of England rural residents agreed that only those on high incomes can afford to buy a home in their local area.

The federation's Gina King, head of the eastern region, said the poll reflected the growing fear within many rural communities that traditional village life was in “terminal decline”.

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She said: “People are seeing key local services like shops, pubs and local schools disappear from their village in record numbers as high house prices and a lack of affordable homes forces families and young people out of their communities.”

Mrs King said second home owners and “wealthy newcomers” had pushed prices up in many areas, but the real problem fuelling the decline of villages was the chronic shortage of affordable homes.

She added: “Until local authorities begin to properly assess the true extent of rural housing need, at village level, and draw up action plans to deliver the new homes so desperately needed, there's a very real danger that traditional village life will disappear.”

Dr Wil Gibson, chief executive of Suffolk ACRE, a charity dedicated to helping communities achieve their ambitions, said he fully supported the findings of the report.

He said: “We call on the Government to give some urgency to implementing the recommendations of the Matthew Taylor Report commissioned by the Prime Minister, especially those calling for greater flexibility in the current planning framework.

“We need a system that allows for different types of housing to cater for the needs of individuals as they move through the different stages of their lives.”

He said Suffolk ACRE wanted to see a commitment to development in rural villages based on local needs, as determined by village-based housing needs surveys that are conducted every three years.

Mr Gibson added: “Without such provision of housing we will continue to see the loss of services but also a fracturing of those social networks that are so important our all our sense of well being.”

Last night, no-one from the Government's Department for Communities and Local Government was available for comment.

Martin King, head of housing for Mid Suffolk District Council, said it was clear that there was a need for more affordable housing, the construction of which had been limited due to the recession, but the problem was not restricted to villages.

He said: “There's no question that the demand for affordable housing in rural areas outstrips supply - but that's no different to urban areas.”

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