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Frequently Asked Questions

Development (rural)

It is outlined in the section 106 agreement that any 'exception site' development must be kept for local people and this is legally binding to the Registered Provider and to us.

People will have to provide evidence of their connection to the parish to be entitled to live in one of the properties. 

If no one can be found from the main parish, there will be a list of neighbouring parishes that can be put forward as reserves.

Should a person with a local link with any of these be put forward, then they will be put forward. The list of reserve parishes are those adjoining parishes regardless of council area.

Greenfield sites are previously undeveloped sites. These should not be confused with Green Belt land, which are protected by the law. There is no Green Belt land in Leicestershire.

There are planning regulations in place to allow greenfield development under certain circumstances, and providing these criteria are in place:

  •  It will be kept affordable for local people
  •  It is supported by recent evidence of unmet housing needs.

Even if these criteria are in place, the planning application will be subject to approval from the planners in a number of other ways, including highways, sustainability, and impact on open countryside.

There are many stages in developing an affordable housing scheme.

Rural housing schemes are traditionally difficult to develop, but each site is different so a number of factors can influence the timeframe - including the number of plots available, how much work is required on the roads, whether the planners are in favour of the site, the funding and how much opposition there is to the site in the parish.

One of our aims is to try to make this process more efficient through best practice, and thus speed up the delivery of the affordable homes.

The village housing needs survey will indicate the amount and type of affordable housing that is required in each village.

By asking local people for details of their housing requirements and income levels, a proposal can be drawn up for each village on the amount of affordable rented housing and shared ownership housing that is required to meet local needs.

While we try to meet specific housing needs we also aim to provide property types that are flexible and can meet future needs aswell.

Exceptions sites have a unique land value because only affordable housing can be built on them. One of our aims as a District Council is to have a consistent approach to exception site land values, to ensure that rural housing schemes are viable and affordable. This will generally be in the region of £10,000 to £12,000 per plot dependent upon the site constraints

An affordable housing scheme needs to be affordable to the occupiers therefore the build costs must be reasonable. This can usually only be achieved through the economies of scale of at least four homes being built at one time. It may be possible to have a scheme split between two sites but the financial viability of this will depend on the nature of the sites and any required infrastructure works.

An affordable housing scheme can make a huge contribution to the parish. It not only meets the housing needs of local people, but it can help maintain the viability of services and amenities in the parish, such as the local school, a village shop and post office. It may also help maintain social networks within the parish so that families can live near each other to provide support or child care.

Rural affordable housing is housing provided in rural parishes for people on lower incomes who are unable to afford a home in the general housing market.

Affordable rented housing is usually owned by a Registered Social Landlord (RSL) - normally a housing association, or a council - and rented at a weekly rent that is affordable to people on low incomes.

Shared ownership and shared equity homes are partly purchased by the resident and partly owned by the RSL.

In the case of shared ownership, the resident may pay rent on the part owned by the RSL. 

A Section 106 agreement is a list of planning conditions that must be fulfilled by a company wishing to build a scheme anywhere. For example, a scheme of 10 houses in a town may require a contribution to local roads so that increased traffic flow can be supported, or towards nearby open space or play facilities. For rural schemes the s106 will include clauses which state that the housing will always remain affordable and for the benefit of local people

The local connection criteria will be laid out in the Section 106 agreement.

  • Born in the parish
  • ordinarily resident in the parish
  • previously ordinarily resident in the parish
  • a need to live in the parish by reason of current employment or a need to move to take up permanent employment
  • a need to reside in the parish either to support or to be supported by another member of their family who ordinarily resides the parish.

Much of the affordable housing developed in rural parishes is located on 'exception sites'. These are sites beyond the village boundary or within villages with no boundary. Residential development is permitted on such sites as an exception to planning policy. The housing will always remain affordable and for the benefit of local people. The site itself must meet the criteria set out by the planning authority. Usually, all potential sites around the settlement will be considered in order to find the best site.

Sites within the village boundary may provide affordable housing as part of a market housing development. However these sites are usually too expensive to provide only affordable housing and the housing will not necessarily be for local people.  These are not 'exception sites'.

Council owned rural rented housing stock has reduced significantly over the last 30 years. Many of our rural homes were sold through the Right to Buy scheme.

Most of our homes are family homes that are now occupied by older residents who wish to remain in the villages but there isn't enough suitable smaller housing for them to move into. These people will not register on our list if they know there is nothing suitable for them in the village.

Others who live in rural areas believe that affordable housing will never be built in rural areas so do not join the housing register.

If the need was solely judged by the register, it would not identify everyone who has a need for certain types of housing. Housing needs surveys almost always turn up people who are in need, but have not joined the register.

A housing needs survey can also help in consulting with the parish community and may help in land coming forward.

It is true that there are a number of properties that have been unoccupied for too long in our villages.

It is important to realise there are many reasons why properties are empty.

Some may be empty where the owner is in hospital or in care, some where the owner has died and left no will and some where the owner is in prison.

In these instances we cannot force owners to occupy them.

We're aware of these properties and are currently revamping our procedures to ensure we are doing all we can to encourage owners to bring them back into use.

Where we have exhausted all possible avenues we have the powers to compulsory purchase the properties and to bring them back into use ourselves.

So much of the old council housing stock has been sold in the villages of North West Leicestershire under the Right to Buy. This has left many communities with little or even no affordable housing for their young people seeking a home of their own.

The result can be devastating for some areas where there are no longer enough children to keep the school open, not enough people to use the village shop leading to its closure and in some areas even the pub can be under threat.

The villages become full of older people or working commuters with no young people or no one around during the day to help them to create a vibrant community.

Sustainability is far more than living on a bus route - there are family support and ties which are just as important.

If local people are unable to afford to live in an area informal social and care networks and family support networks that are essential elements in villages with limited facilities are undermined. Mixed communities are more sustainable, affordable housing can contribute to the sustainability of a parish.

Affordable housing can bring other benefits to villages, such as sports amenities, car parking facilities, allotments or premises for a community shop, as facilities may be provided as part of the housing project.

It is important the parish council understand the process to be able to advise local people - but it is not appropriate for the parish council to be involved in the detail of the selection process. This would compromise both their position and the confidentiality of applicant’s details.

Verification of an applicant's local connection will be done by us or the Registered Provider, which may include a home visit if necessary. The parish council will be sent a list of the local connections of the selected applicants, but not the applicant's details due to data protection requirements.

Unless the landowner has a specific reason otherwise, the land will be sold freehold to the Registered Provider and the landowner can have no say in who the new homes go to. If the land is adjacent to land that the landowner is retaining, then they will consulted on the design and layout of schemes along with other neighbours as part of the planning consultation process.

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