New case studies: Foxton and Whittlesford

Cambridgeshire ACRE were commissioned by South Cambridgeshire DC to produce two new case studies on recent rural exception schemes. Schemes at Newton Road, Whittlesford and Chalk Hill, Foxton were selected.

The Whittlesford scheme highlights the issues of developing rural exception schemes in the green belt and emphasizes the enabling role that strong community support played.

The Foxton scheme illustrates the inter-connection between consultation and design as part of an iterative process. Several improvements to the final scheme were made as part of this process.


Seminar and Tour for South Cambridgeshire District Councillors

South Cambridgeshire District Council is one of the leading local authorities in England for delivering rural exception sites. The elections in May 2019 resulted in a number of new councillors. Officers at South Cambridgeshire DC and Cambridgeshire ACRE  worked together to deliver a seminar and tour of rural exception schemes so councillors were better informed about the process and able to make a full contribution in supporting their constituent parish councils to help deliver affordable homes for local people in rural communities.

Councillors visited Home Close, Swavesey, the first scheme in South Cambridgeshire DC’s new council house programme. They also visited Station Road, Willingham where Cross Keys Homes are just completing a 22 dwelling affordable homes scheme and were able to see the quality of the design both inside and outside.

2019 Myth Buster Tour

Cambridgeshire ACRE ran its 5th annual Myth Buster Tour on 3 July 2019. Delivered as part of national Rural Housing Week, the tour attracted over 20 delegates including members from District Councils, Parish Councils, Community Land Trusts and Neighbourhood Planning groups. Delegates were able to see five rural exception schemes including a look inside some of the houses at Station Road, Willingham.

Feedback was excellent with delegates appreciating both the chance to see a range of schemes in situ and quiz the accompanying housing professionals about the details of the schemes.

You can see some photos of the schemes visited and download the programme.

Shared ownership demand forecast to rise 150%

Research by Savills has forecast that the ending of Help To Buy by 2023 will lead to a 150% increase in demand for shared ownership properties. They calculate that shared ownership is a much more affordable product for households on below median incomes.

Their research estimates that an income of £48,600 is required to purchase a house priced at £230,000 on the open market. With Help To Buy the required income falls to £38,800. However, a 50% shared ownership purchase would only require an income of £27,600 and a 25% shared ownership purchase would require an even lower income of £21,600.

See for the full report.

Revised NPPF published

The revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) was published in July 2018. Among the many changes are some significant implications for the delivery of rural affordable housing. Generally, the provision of rural housing is encouraged. However, the delivery of affordable housing in rural communities will remain challenging.

The NPPF has ‘enshrined’ earlier Written Ministerial Guidance which removed the requirement to provide affordable housing within schemes of 10 or less dwellings. A commuted sum can be required for schemes of 6-10 dwellings but only in designated rural areas (defined under s157 of the 1985 Housing Act). Unfortunately no rural communities in Cambridgeshire fall under this designation. This means that affordable housing will only be delivered where communities are subjected to larger development proposals (often speculative proposals against community wishes where the Local Plan has been deemed out of date) or on rural exception sites.

Fortunately, rural exception sites have been afforded some protection by the decision to scale back the proposal for Entry Level Exception Sites (ELES). These had threatened to undermine rural exception sites by generating higher land values through an element of market housing. The final decision to restrict ELES to affordable housing tenures only should mean that they cannot outbid rural exception schemes.