Maldon District Council is the first local authority in Essex to sign up to support the National Housing Federation’s ‘Save our Villages’ campaign.
The aim of the campaign is to raise awareness about the need and benefits of affordable housing in rural communities, helping to protect traditional village life.
According to the National Housing Federation, living in the countryside is becoming increasingly expensive and seven out of ten people in the East of England believe that local people are being priced out of rural areas where they have lived, as the average cost of a house in rural areas is £40,000 more than its equivalent in urban areas.
Maldon District Council has been aware of the need for affordable housing in some rural parts of the District through the work of Rural Community Council of Essex (RCCE) and Parish Councils working in partnership to identify local needs.
In 2009 the Council set up a Rural Housing Task Group, with representatives of specialist housing associations, RCCE, local politicians and others to help support Parish Councils throughout the District who are interested in this work.
The Group has been successful in providing both practical assistance and technical guidance, helping to share good practice between organisations. This has helped improve the understanding of some of the barriers and concerns about the development of affordable housing in rural areas, and led to an agreed programme of work to help support the supply of homes that meet the need of local rural communities.
There is such a close link between the aims of the National Housing Federation’s campaign and the work of the Council’s Rural Housing Task Group that it made sense to bring the two together to help protect the future of local villages, which are such an important part of the District’s history and culture.
A number of parish councils are already working on schemes to help meet local housing need and both Maldon District Council and the National Housing Federation share the same goal of wanting to encourage as many villages as possible to at least consider the need for affordable housing in their area.
Claire Astbury, East of England Lead Manager at the National Housing Federation, says; “England’s villages and market towns must be mixed, working communities which support a range of local businesses and services. It is great that Maldon District Council is standing up to protect village life.
“Unless we build more affordable homes for local people, they will continue to be priced out of rural areas and the services they help support will vanish with them.”
Cllr Mrs Brenda Harker, Chairman of the Council’s Community Services Committee agrees: “Maldon is a large rural district with numerous villages, which are a vital part of Maldon’s heritage and culture. Their survival depends on local people being able to afford to live there and support village life.
“Affordable housing provides homes for people who might otherwise be priced out of their village. Just a small number of new affordable homes can benefit the whole community and help to sustain local businesses and services.”
By signing up to the Save our Villages campaign, Maldon District Council has joined 49 councils across England who have committed to investigate housing across their areas and to publish an action plan to show how those needs will be met.