Headlines: September 23rd, 2005

The new Affordable Rural Housing Commission has met for the first time and will shortly be issuing a call for evidence to help it get the views of people and organisations with knowledge and experience of the problems of affordable homes in country areas.As well as calling for input, members of the Commission will visit a number of English regions to take evidence from community groups and individuals and to see for themselves a number of projects and schemes which have been successful in tackling the problem. The Commission’s Chairwoman Elinor Goodman, the former Channel 4 Television Political Editor, said the visits would help them learn lessons about good practice that could be implemented elsewhere.

” We have a tight timetable and all members of the Commission are keenly aware of the need to come up with practical solutions to the biggest issue in rural communities, affordable, local housing,” she said.

The 12 members of the Commission have been chosen to bring rural community, environmental, housing association, private sector, land and business perspectives. They include James Caird, the Head of Planning, South Shropshire District Council, which was recently reported to be considering refusing permission for housing developments that did not include enough properties for first time buyers, Teresa Butchers, the Chief Executive of Devon and Cornwall Housing Association and Neil Sinden, the Policy Director, Campaign to Protect Rural England. Other members include a senior figure from a house building company, a dairy farmer an academic and a former MP.

Jim Knight, the Minister for Rural Affairs, Landscape and Biodiversity, told them at their first meeting that no community could survive unless its citizens, including the young and old and those on low incomes, could afford a decent, local home. “This is just as true in rural areas as in urban areas. The Commission will need to consider the demand and supply of housing in rural areas across the public, private and voluntary sectors,” he said.

The Commission is due to report in Spring next year and Mr. Knight said he was looking forward to imaginative, realistic and achievable recommendations.