The Surrey Hills AONB Board has written to the Government to express concerns about the likely unintended consequences for the Surrey Hills AONB should certain aspects of the Government’s housing proposals be embodied in legislation and the revisions to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).
The Board stressed that in the special circumstances of the Surrey Hills AONB, the proposals will, in their view, do further damage to the economic and social stability of local communities and undermine what is already a fragile rural society under immense pressure given its situation on the doorstep of London.
The Board were keen to highlight just how different the socio-economic circumstances in the Surrey Hills AONB were. In 2012 the Lloyds Bank/TSB AONB House Price Review demonstrated that average house prices in the Surrey Hills AONB far exceeded those of any other AONB. Surrey house prices and the desirability of living in a beautiful landscape with easy access to employment in London, makes it normal for new market housing to be bought by richer incomers who are prepared to pay a price premium in order to live in the Surrey Hills. The plain fact is the demand for housing for sale is insatiable in the Surrey Hills and has been this way for several decades.
The consequence of the Right to Buy legislation affecting Housing Association stock will be to deny further the limited public housing available in the Surrey Hills for key workers and younger local people who have connections in the community. Neither will selling starter homes at a 20% discount bridge the inherent gap between what local residents can afford and current housing prices. Selling off limited public housing will serve to further encourage the creation of sterile dormitory village communities devoid of rural economic activity and occupied by wealthy and/or ageing incomers.
The Surrey Hills Board asked Government to consider excluding all AONBs from these proposed housing and planning provisions in the same way as AONBs are appropriately excluded from several other existing planning provisions, including certain permitted development rights.
The Surrey Hills AONB Management Plan 2014-2019, recognises the need to underpin the social and economic well being of residents with local links by supporting the development of new small scale affordable housing which enables locals to continue to live in their communities. This policy is based on public sector rented and shared ownership housing schemes which are permitted on “rural exception sites” where occupation is guaranteed to remain for people with local links in perpetuity. Click here to view the Surrey Hills AONB Board Management Plan.
The Board went on to urge the Government to appreciate the probably unintended consequences of its policy proposals and consider exempting AONBs from those parts of the Housing and Planning Bill that would cause the problems and ensure that the revised NPPF also takes them into account.