Flawed planning system stifling rural communities, says CLA

The government must overhaul its approach to tackling the housing crisis in rural communities, says the Country Land and Business Association (CLA).

Homes are becoming increasingly unaffordable to locals, while the rigid planning system means housebuilding cannot keep up with population demand, further draining the countryside of its young people and workforce.

The CLA said small-scale developments were needed to support local employment and strengthen the social fabric of these areas, by ensuring pubs, shops and schools could stay open.

See also: Farm buildings: Know your permitted development rights

However, under the current planning system, large-scale developments – which negatively alter the nature of local communities – are favoured over more modest proposals.

Key changes

The association’s latest Rural Powerhouse report, Sustainable Communities: The role of housing in strengthening the rural economy, suggests five key changes to the planning system to help address these issues:

  1. A smaller number of houses in a larger number of villages A return to a National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) that promotes organic, incremental growth in settlements with fewer than 3,000 residents.
  2. Reform local authority sustainability assessments Change assessments to ensure they are more reflective of the services that could be supported if development were enabled, and give more weight to digital connectivity.
  3. Mandatory housing needs assessments across all rural settlements Undertake housing needs assessments for settlements that have not previously been allocated housing, in addition to those that already have, to ensure need is properly identified and met.
  4. Extension of permitted development rights Allow permitted development on rural exception sites to provide much-needed affordable rental housing options for the benefit of local communities.
  5. Inheritance tax exemptions Extend conditional IHT exemptions to affordable rented housing for the period in which homes remain let as such.

CLA president Mark Tufnell said: “Fundamental flaws in today’s planning system are letting rural communities down.

“For too long, its unnecessary red tape has held back the initiation of projects, stifling investment, innovation and entrepreneurship in the countryside.

Government U-turn

“We are disappointed to see the government U-turn on previous promises to simplify the planning framework.

“The housing crisis has not gone away, and this marks yet another missed opportunity to bring prosperity to rural areas. If the government is serious about meeting its housebuilding targets, this must change.”

The CLA has called on Michael Gove, the secretary of state for housing, communities and local government, to deliver on his “levelling up” promises and make meaningful changes to the planning system.