Protecting the Terroir – whilst Delivering Rural Homes

Visiting rural development sites

Armed with my BLG hard hat, last week I visited several rural development sites in Yorkshire.  It was good to spend time talking with the developers and construction specialists who are the lifeblood of the home building industry.

It was also good to get out into the countryside, whilst I have made my home in London and spent the bulk of my business career in the City’s finance industry, I was brought up in the countryside. My Grandfather was a fruit farmer – mostly apples – they say ‘you can take the boy out of the country but can’t take the country out of the boy!’

As we all know, like most parts of the British Isles, the countryside is in the grip of a housing crisis.  Perhaps the countryside poses different challenges than the housing issues suffered in our towns and cities, but it is no less devastating for those who cannot find or afford a home. Rural wages tend to lag behind urban salaries and often affordability is a problem.

We need to rebuild our country communities – and this means housing

One could say that rural development has a considerable benefit over urban, in that there is less pressure on the availability of rural land. OK, there would be a “hue and cry” if we started to build over the village green, nobody wants that. But villages and rural communities need to grow and develop, both physically and socially. If planning policy is used to hold back rural development in villages and smaller towns, they will simply become museum pieces and slowly die. Many villages have already lost the local shop, Post Office and pub. Action needs to be taken now to rebuild our countryside communities.

Whilst it is in the cities that there are the most acute housing issues, and delivering new affordable homes there must be the focus of central government, our local government needs to be proactive. There are around 4,500 villages in the country, many have an ageing population and need young blood for a vibrant community to thrive. But young families need affordable housing fit for purpose, both in the private rented sector and the owner-occupier market.

New housing schemes need to be well designed and sympathetic to the local style and community needs.  Therefore, this is my plea to the Parish Councils and other local community bodies to be positive about new development; without it, there could be nowhere for the teachers, the carers, the shop-owners or even our grandchildren to live.

Stuart Parfitt is Managing Director of BLG Development Finance and a keen cricketer.


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