From: The Chairman. The River Yealm & District Association.
ANCHOR HOUSE, PILLORY HILL, NOSS MAYO PL8 1ED
Telephones: 44 (0)1752 872366/872004.
The Chairman, The
The RYDA held its Annual General Meeting in the Noss Village Hall last night. Ninety members listened to a Presentation by the Chairman on “Affordable Housing”.
The aim was to brief the membership on the subject in its widest sense, covering a broad range of related subjects: the demographic trends in the two villages, the true costs of local housing and the level of wages in the South West generally. The ability of first time buyers to raise sufficient capital to enter the housing market is clearly limited and there are few options, even for those with equity who might wish to down-size and remain in their own village.
I took the unusual step of inviting five local landowners who were not members of the RYDA to attend so that any future debate could be better informed.
I thought it might be helpful if I were to sum up the reaction of those present at this meeting in advance of the Annual General Meeting of the Parish Council on Monday.
· There was almost total acceptance that action had to be taken to rebalance and regenerate the two villages.
· There was universal agreement that the Briar Hill Farm Site, as presently proposed, was unacceptably large and dense and, though within the village boundary and offering other potential advantages, would be unlikely to bring overall benefit to the villages in its present form.
· The meeting was also briefed on other potential sites for both housing and employment possibilities. Whilst it was accepted that none of these potential sites had planning permission, there was general agreement that the problems of finding affordable housing and employment land should be approached by taking in more sites at lower density and by creating some sort of “Village Building Plan” with a rolling construction programme of, say, ten houses per year. Briar Hill Farm would, of course, be a part of any such plan.
· It was realised that the fundamental difficulty lay both in the low wages and small capital base of many low paid but essential workers, as well as in the elevated value of local land, making “Affordable Housing” in the open market almost impossible to achieve There was, however, almost universal support for:
o The idea that a local Landowner, in return for permission to build say two houses for his family, might sell the rest of a parcel of land at well below the market rate for Affordable Housing; a sort of ‘natural justice’ for those who were probably born and brought up here. This would, at a stroke, make it possible to build at much lower cost.
o Ensuring that Affordable Housing remained so in perpetuity by some sort of clever financing for any “Exception Sites” we could generate. Clearly; a Community Land Trust or perhaps other forms of village trust were attractive possibilities.
o One of the difficulties widely felt was that there was no definition of what should be the price of an “Affordable Home”. The suggestion was made that we should start from a sum of four times the average annual earnings, say £80,000 - £100,000. This idea was widely supported as a realistic target to aim at in judging the eligibility of any proposal. Such an approach would put a premium on acquiring land at lower than commercial rates and setting up a regime that would make it possible to finance such a proposition.
In summary: there was widespread support for an action plan to regenerate and rebalance the community. This should preferably be achieved through a genuine “Village Building Plan” where houses could be built at a rate commensurate with the requirement and where the village, through its Parish Council, could have real influence over the density , design and other factors of any proposed scheme.
Finally; and it is a personal view not canvassed to the RYDA membership. There would seem to be an opportunity open to us as a community to break new ground. We are currently faced with a situation where we are prisoners of Government Planning Rules, Beacon Guidelines, the LDF and other constraints. The options we have are, therefore, limited. We can mount some sort of opposition or attempt to modify plans made by others, often launched too late to achieve very much.
At the same time we have local landowners, businesses and many people who live and work here who would support and be happy to contribute to a sensible, balanced village plan, generated by those who actually live here, to achieve a solution we would all be happy to live with. Maybe, the new Community Land Trust and other opportunities are there to be seized in support of such a Village Plan. Coherently put together and, maybe, championed at some stage by the local press, could we not seize the initiative and get solutions more in keeping with the views that surfaced so strongly at our meeting ?
I attach for information:-
· A copy of the “Briefing Notes” distributed to all who attended the meeting.
· My Presentation “Notes” and “Slides” used to illustrate them.