Recent research has shown that over 2,000 villages in England are considered unsustainable for growth.
The Countryside Landowners Association (CLA) analysed 70 local plans for villages across the country. The research uncovered that 2,154 villages in England are considered to be unsustainable, which has pushed the CLA to call for planning criteria to be updated.
Unsustainable often means housing allocations in these areas are worsening the rural housing crisis, reducing supply and inflating prices. These unsustainable housing allocations could include the delivery of affordable homes being highly restricted or not permitted at all. However, new homes could help sustain rural communities by reinvigorating the local community and businesses, which could bring young people to the village and encourage older residents to remain.
Many councils create a Hierarchy of Settlements document that measures each community against a series of criteria. It usually includes services and amenities. This turns their local plans into a league table. The higher a settlement ranks the more sustainable it’s considered. This only furthers the problem by putting new residents in communities already well-served with facilities and amenities, bringing no growth, development, or investment.
On top of that, CLA’s research revealed that only 18% of local authorities look at broadband availability as a factor when determining sustainability. This shows that numerous councils are not keeping up with technology and changing times and are simply overlooking what it can do for rural communities.
What should these rural communities be in the future and how can we sustain them?
Providing more housing and employment opportunities for young people could allow them to remain in the local area or move there. Older residents can also play a positive and dynamic role. With an ageing population, many elderly people are wanting to downsize, but there’s often a lack of supply, causing some to stay where they are.
The issue with that is these larger homes are inefficient for an elderly couple but could be perfect for young families. Local authorities will need to look at retirement villages to deliver a larger mix of sustainable properties. These villages retain elderly residents’ links to a village, while freeing up homes to meet other families’ needs.
Retirement villages offer a more sustainable community and can have a positive impact on residents and a community’s long-term viability. This in turn makes it possible for reinvigorated villages to sustain smaller scale developments and more local facilities.