(District Council) To consider the attached report in connection with the provision of local affordable housing schemes.
The District Council reported to the Committee on the opportunities available for the provision of affordable housing schemes comprising affordable rented, shared ownership and low-cost market housing, in rural areas of the Epping Forest District.
The Director of Communities advised that an opportunity for the provision of such housing schemes had arisen as a result of the ‘planning exceptions policy’ contained in the Council’s current Local Plan, which recognised that a lack of affordable housing in rural village areas was likely to have a greater effect on individuals and communities than in urban areas, and that the opportunities for increasing the amount of affordable housing was less than in urban areas. Members noted that this was usually because less suitable development sites generally become available in rural areas and local inhabitants were more likely to have to move away from their local area than in larger, urban areas.
The Committee noted that, under the exceptions policy, planning permission could be granted on sites that only provided affordable housing (plus some market housing, if necessary in order to make the development viable) to meet a local housing need, for which planning applications for developments comprising predominantly market housing would be refused. Members were advised however, that certain conditions set out in the Local Plan must be met in relation to schemes, including that the development must be:
· in smaller settlements that have a recognisable community, distinct and separate from the metropolitan area;
· small scale;
· in response to a demonstrable local housing need (identified through a rural housing survey);
· supported by the local town or parish council;
· well-related to the existing settlement; and
· providing predominantly affordable housing in perpetuity.
It was reported that the Local Plan stated that settlements which could be suitable for schemes included Epping Green, Matching Tye, Matching Green, Moreton, Sheering, Fyfield, Willingale, Toot Hill and Stapleford Abbotts. Those areas that would specifically not be appropriate included Lower Nazeing, Theydon Bois, Chigwell Row, North Weald Bassett, Sewardstone and Chipping Ongar.
In order to ensure that rural affordable housing schemes only provided accommodation for local residents, applicants were required be:
· long-established local residents (i.e. those who have lived in the village concerned for at least five of the preceding ten years) requiring separate accommodation;
· immediate family dependents of long-established local residents;
· former long-established residents; or
· living elsewhere and could not otherwise take up, or continue to, work in the village.
The Committee was advised that four rural housing schemes had so far been provided in the District under the planning exceptions policy, which had provided a total of 26 affordable homes. Affordable Housing Grant was available from the Homes and Communities Agency to fund rural housing schemes in certain circumstances.
The District Council had previously selected Hastoe Housing Association as its partner for the delivery of rural housing schemes. Hastoe had a wealth of experience in working closely with town and parish councils to assess local housing need and provide rural housing schemes, including three of the four schemes already provided in the District in the past.
Ulrike Maccariello of Hastoe made a short presentation to the Committee, detailing how local housing needs are assessed through a bespoke rural housing survey, the process for the identification of suitable sites, the role of town and parish councils, the forms of tenure provided for the accommodation, the development process and the safeguards implemented to ensure that only local residents are eligible for the housing schemes.
The District Council reported that the slides from Ms. Maccariello’s presentation would be published on its website, alongside the minutes from the meeting.
That the report be noted.