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Foot Anstey comment: Exception sites can see development permitted20th August 2012

Foot Anstey real estate partner Richard Walford, is advising landowners to review the opportunities for exception site development in rural areas.

The high cost and limited availability of housing in many rural areas is an issue for people who live or work in the countryside.

The Affordable Rural Housing Commission reports that there is "an acute shortage of affordable housing in rural areas of all regions of England".

Average house prices in rural areas of all types are higher, overall, than in urban areas with hamlets having the most expensive housing. Conversely, average salaries for those working in rural areas are lower than those in urban areas, making it less affordable for a rural employee to buy a house in a rural area.

Stricter planning controls make life more difficult leaving many landowners thinking there are no opportunities. However, a number of parties have stepped up to the mark, not least specialist affordable housing providers. One such provider is Hastoe and their Business Development Director Kevin Hartnett said: "We have a track record of bringing rural land forward for development and can help find solutions to overcome the challenges faced by rural communities".

Development in many rural areas is limited by tight planning controls on land. However, Exception Sites provide an opportunity for landowners and developers of affordable housing to build houses in areas where planning permission for such development would not usually be considered. Such developments usually consist of about ten to 25 dwellings (but will be determined by local need) and require around 1-2 acres. Local planning authorities are increasingly relaxing their policies in respect of exception site development. This is being influenced by guidance contained within the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which the Government issued recently.

Many landowners are not aware of the potential for some of their land holding to be suitable for exception site development. This is typically land that:

  • Is close or adjacent to an existing built up area within a village
  • Has road frontage or suitable vehicular access
  • Is in a location where proven demand exists for housing from people living in the parish or neighbouring parishes, or with strong local connections
  • Is outside the flood plain
  • Could be considered suitable for exploring its potential for development.

Landowner returns can come in various forms:

  • A straight payment for the land
  • Ability to secure some open market plots on the land for the landowner's own use
  • Provision of house/houses for the landowner's own use.

The return can be tailored to the landowner's requirements but will also be influenced by the position the local planning authority takes.

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