Response to Warwick District Council: Mixed Communities and Affordable Housing

Warwick District Council:  Planning Document
Mixed Communities and Affordable Housing (Consultation Draft)
The following papers are the Offchurch Parish Council’s response to the above document.
Please refer to the Consultation Draft on www.warwickdc.gov.uk –
follow the links to Planning, and Mixed Communities and Affordable Housing.
Response to Question 4 on the Consultation Form:
Affordable Housing on Rural Exception Sites – Chapter 9, pages 19-23
The Parish Council fully support the overall thrust of this policy which is to limit the
scale of new housing developments in rural communities, and, where development
is allowed, to restrict it solely to the provision of affordable housing.  However in
one respect – the way it defines need – we think the policy is too rigid.
The policy defines need in relation to either existing residents, former residents, relatives
of residents, or people employed in the parish (9.16, page 21)  While clearly the needs
of this group of people should be given priority we think there is another factor which
has been overlooked, namely the social balance and viability of the community. We
think that it is quite possible for there to be no identified need emerging from the named
group and yet the community as a whole may still have a need for a limited amount of
affordable housing.
The reality of small communities in South Warwickshire is that house prices are high –
significantly more expensive than similar houses in the nearby towns – and inevitably
this means that homeowners have either a higher than average income, considerable
capital, or both.  The financial reality for the majority of people in this country is that
they aren’t in a position to buy a house in a desirable South Warwickshire village
until they are well into middle-age and have either accumulated the necessary capital
or have a job with a high salary.  We think this can, and often does, cause real
problems for the social cohesion of village communities.
The logic of the scenario described above is that villages become dominated by
middle-aged and older people because young families, and for that matter young
people without children, can’t afford to live in rural communities.  Communities over
time can start to ossify – they lack the energy and new ideas that all social groups
need to develop and become thriving.  They also suffer from a lack of younger
people who may potentially provide support for older residents!  At its extreme a
policy that fails to address this issue can lead to village communities becoming elite
enclaves of financially secure older people perhaps interspersed with a few high
achieving younger people fortunate enough to have the resources to buy into the
community.  We don’t believe these sort of communities are socially healthy and
certainly not desirable.  They can lead to residents having a very blinkered view
of other, less fortunate, communities and create an unhealthy social divide which
ultimately benefits nobody.
At the present time Offchurch benefits from a relatively high proportion of rented
accommodation, and this probably helps us to avoid the problems referred to above.
Other villages may not be so fortunate and indeed there is no guarantee that rented
accommodation will continue to be available in Offchurch in the long term.
We would therefore like to see the policy expanded to enable affordable housing to
be allowed for reasons of social cohesion.  This would enable villages to expand to
allow for more social and demographic diversity and give young families without the
financial resources to live in a village community the opportunity to do so.
We would also like to see a more positive statement in the policy about the
contribution of shared ownership. Where this can be provided affordably we
think new residents in shared ownership accommodation will have a strong
commitment to remain in the community, and thus make a significant contribution
to the vitality of village life.
Response to Question 5:
Proposed changes to the document
Paragraph 9.5
2nd sentence:   Delete last  word ‘residents’. Replace with ‘the rural community.’
3rd sentence:  After ‘disposable income and savings;’ delete ‘and’.  After ‘village/parish’
add ‘;the demographic make-up of the community; and the social viability of the village.’
Paragraph 9.16
At the end of the paragraph and after the list add the following:
‘Although the above groups of people are the priority in terms of need, the policy
recognises that there will be circumstances in particular villages where no identified
need emerges from the priority groups.  However, such villages may still identify a need
to develop their community to create a more socially balanced, diverse and viable village
community.  In these circumstances the definition of  need will be expanded to
include people with an affordable housing need in the wider locality, even though
they do not have a specific link to the parish.
Paragraph 9.18
3rd sentence:  Delete the word ‘small’.
At the end of the paragraph add the following sentence:
‘Where affordable, shared ownership has the advantage that residents have a stake
in the future of their village and are likely to remain living in the community for many
years, thus adding to the vitality of village life.
Offchurch Parish Council
10/10/07