A Liberal Democrat move to increase affordable housing in rural parishes in East Cambridgeshire is set to be backed by Conservative councillors tonight.
A motion from the Liberal Democrats to the Council meeting on Thursday (22 October) includes a call for the Council’s Finance & Assets Committee to examine the potential for the Council to apply for them to be formally designated as a rural area so that they can have greater influence over housing developments. Where parishes have been designated as a rural area the District Council can set for itself the point at which a housing development must make a contribution to local affordable housing needs—opening up the possibility of more affordable homes in small villages.
Liberal Democrat group leader Cllr Lorna Dupré (Sutton) said: “At the moment only developments of more than ten properties are required to provide any affordable housing, and this same threshold applies everywhere.
“In its recent Planning For the Future White Paper, the Government is proposing to raise this threshold to 40 or even 50. This disastrous proposal would eliminate new affordable homes in most village communities which don’t generally see developments of this size.
“Local Liberal Democrat research has revealed that District Councils can apply to the Government for certain parishes to be designated as rural areas under the 1985 Housing Act. If they were designated as rural areas, the Council could set a lower threshold for these parishes, resulting in more affordable homes being built in smaller communities.”
Liberal Democrat group deputy leader Cllr Charlotte Cane (Bottisham) added: “Small villages in East Cambridgeshire generally don’t receive planning applications of the size that requires affordable housing—yet they desperately need more affordable homes.
“Designation as a rural area could be a real opportunity for the District Council to work with smaller parishes to decide their own affordable housing needs and set a suitable threshold to help meet them.”
The District Council would need to apply to the Government for designation of these parishes as rural areas under Section 157(i) of the Housing Act 1985. To qualify for designation as a rural area, parishes need to have fewer than 3,000 residents and no more than two persons per hectare. Parishes in East Cambridgeshire which could meet these requirements are:
- Burrough Green
- Little Downham
- Swaffham Bulbeck
- Swaffham Prior
- Westley Waterless