Working With The Church To Develop Affordable Rural Housing

The lack of good quality, affordable rural housing is widely known. In fact, our recent research demonstrates the economic, societal and fiscal benefits of investing in affordable homes in rural areas.

An issue facing rural housing associations is the lack of available land on which to build small-scale schemes which, for English Rural, average only six homes. One solution is to work with the Church to help release underutilised land for affordable housing.

Just like the Church, English Rural believes in building strong communities and bringing people together. That’s why we have partnered with the Church in many of our rural housing schemes.

One example is in the village of Roxwell, Essex.

The parish of Roxwell is located approximately 4 miles to the West of the City of Chelmsford. The village has a population of just over 1,000 people which supports a pre-school, primary school, village shop, pub, village hall and reading room and a Church. With support from the parish council, housing needs surveys were carried out in 2012 and 2018 by the Essex Rural Housing Enabler. The results were assessed against a variety of other data on housing affordability and availability and indicated a housing need from twenty households. The parish council worked with the RHE to identify possible suitable sites for a small exceptions site development. The preferred site at Green Lane was owned by the Diocese of Chelmsford. English Rural, who had been selected by the parish council as the registered provider for the project, successfully negotiated the acquisition of the site.

Affordable rural homes in Roxwell, Essex

A Community Consultation event and input from the Parish Council helped to develop and inform the design of the scheme, leading up to the planning application being submitted in June 2018. To generate essential additional financial support for the delivery of the affordable homes, and thus reduce the requirement for public subsidy, the project also included two chalet bungalows developed for sale via a discounted local sale model agreed with the local authority. The model includes a discount of 25% off full market value, set in perpetuity, with local connection criteria designed to help families stay in the village.

The scheme was planned as a small group around a central green space to ensure the existing oak trees, the subject of a tree preservation order, remain adequately protected.

Just over seven years after the initial housing needs survey and site search was undertaken, the much-needed affordable homes for local people were completed in February 2020, and will remain an asset for the community in perpetuity. Fundamental to the success of the scheme has been the close working relationships between English Rural, the Diocese of Chelmsford, the parish council of Roxwell, and Chelmsford City Council.

The scheme was officially opened by our patron, HRH The Princess Royal, in September 2020.

You are invited to join Lord Gardiner of Kimble, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for Rural Affairs and Biosecurity), Paul Miner, Head of Land Use and Planning at CPRE, the countryside charity, the Bishop of Tewkesbury, the Rt Revd Robert Springett and the Revd Rowena King for an evening conference on rural housing.

Please register by clicking here.

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