English Rural were delighted to welcome representatives from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) as they visited our affordable homes in three Surrey villages on Wednesday 29th January. During the visit, the MHCLG team heard first-hand how affordable homes in Dunsfold, Hambledon and Chiddingfold can transform lives and build a legacy for the future of the villages that provide opportunities beyond housing.
The villages are set within the heart of the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB); renowned for its landscape, rural views and characterised by a patchwork of woodland, sandy heathland and farmland spread across picturesque villages and market towns. Within the villages, the availability of substantial architectural properties, set in large grounds close to high performing schools and being within easy reach of London make these highly desirable locations. A report last year from English Rural, supported by Strutt & Parker, revealed that properties within the Surrey Hills AONB are, on average: –
Like many rural areas, villages in the Surrey Hills are affected by higher than average property prices and lower than average wages, making it impossible for many local households to afford to rent or buy a home in their local community, alongside family and support networks. As an AONB, the tighter planning rules mean new supply is limited and this has intensified the affordable housing crisis. Meanwhile, the nature of the housing stock, which leans towards large, detached properties, drives demand among up-sizers and families relocating from London attracted by the space, excellent schooling and attractive countryside. The research also highlights the lack of opportunity for older households to move to better designed and smaller accommodation.
Essential local services in rural areas, such as schools, shops and pubs, are increasingly at risk of closing where villages have suffered from lack of investment in new affordable homes. Without access to an affordable home it is difficult for local households, particularly families, to remain. This is also shown to put the long-term sustainability of the local economy at risk.
English Rural has a strong track record of working with communities in rural areas to deliver homes that meet an acute need. Housing needs surveys are carried out to understand exactly what homes a community needs and where they should be built. The community is involved throughout the design process so that the homes reflect the aspirations and sensitivities of local people. Building affordable rural homes enables families to remain within the communities they have been in for generations, and this in turn supports rural services by allowing them to remain open.
Both Waverley Borough Council and the local Parish Councils have worked together with English Rural to provide the affordable homes for local people in their own community.
Commenting on the visit, English Rural’s Chief Executive, Martin Collett, said:
“We are thrilled to be able to welcome representatives from the Ministry of Housing on behalf of English Rural and show them the affordable rural homes we have built and are developing in the villages of Hambledon, Dunsfold and Chiddingfold. Most importantly, the visit focused on how Parish Councils and the local authority can work effectively with rural housing associations to form strong partnerships that ultimately benefit local residents. This has a positive impact on their own circumstances and the wider community. Encouraging government departments such as the MHCLG to visit examples of what can be achieved is an important highlight for us as an organisation.”