The need for new housing is vital for many communities, including many rural areas, where there are often unique challenges and requirements for delivering new homes. Whilst many policies in the Budget will support house building across the country such as reductions in stamp duty, a commitment to simplify planning law, and new financial support, we are concerned by the lack of policies designed to address the challenge in rural areas.
The Chancellor has focused on large scale developments through new ‘garden cities’, and increasing the housing density in urban areas, rather than embracing innovative policies to support small scale sustainable developments that represent local demand. The Chancellor has acknowledged this by stating “we will focus on the urban areas where people want to live and work, and where most jobs are created”.
The failure to recognise the equally pressing need for affordable housing in rural areas will only exacerbate the problem of young people in rural areas unable to find a home, with negative consequences for the future of sustainability of rural shops, schools, services, and increasing rural isolation.
As well as building houses in the right places, it is also essential that these new homes have access to all modern services, particularly high speed fibre broadband. The increase in the Housing Infrastructure Fund is welcome but this will only apply to high demand areas and is largely targeted at energy and road infrastructure projects. The Chancellor missed the opportunity to give a commitment that all new homes will be built with the ability to connect to a broadband speed of at least 10Mbit/S.
Digital infrastructure must be matched with the digital skills and the Chancellor’s announcement to invest £30 million in digital skills training is welcome and it vital that rural communities are able to benefit from this investment.
Sarah Lee, Head of Policy at the Countryside Alliance, commented: “The Chancellor has outlined a number of policy and investment commitments designed to boost house building and home ownership, but we are concerned that not enough of this will benefit people in rural areas. There is a growing trend of young people having to move out of the communities in which they were born and brought up because they cannot find affordable local housing, and the Chancellor’s approach risks accelerating rather than reversing this trend. Post Brexit, the countryside has a key role to play in boosting our productivity and must get its fair share of the measures announced in the Budget from housing to 5G and high speed broadband delivery”.