The affordability of housing for local residents in rural areas has been a long standing problem. Uley Parish Council recognised this problem some years ago and it was a constant objective to actually achieve some affordable housing in the village. Easier said than done!
Whilst Uley has some council housing, much of this had been sold and was now private housing. Of those properties left as council housing there was no guarantee that they would be let to local Uley residents. Council housing is allocated according to rules which allow people throughout the much wider Stroud District Council area to qualify and most properties had been let to people coming from outside the village.
Only housing built under the Affordable Housing Scheme guarantees that priority is given to local residents and their families. In addition, these residents have to prove that their income is insufficient to either rent in the private sector or to buy their own homes. So eligibility is restricted to those local folk genuinely in need of affordable housing.
Whilst affordable housing can be made available either to rent or to buy (shared ownership, for example), Uley PC was adamant that any housing would be for rental only, so ensuring that the properties would remain available indefinitely for those in need in the village.
In order to obtain affordable housing, there need to be a number of building blocks in place:
- a demonstration of housing need through a formal independent process – the Housing Needs Survey
- specialist guidance and support to lead the council through the process;
- one or more landowners willing to sell their land at a rate which is less than the open market rate they could have obtained for private housing;
- a willing Housing Association to develop the housing;
- and lots of hard work and determination.
All these pieces need to be in place throughout; without one, it can all fold.
Uley PC actually had two attempts to acquire some affordable houses in the village, but the first attempt (in 2003/4) failed because one of the building blocks did not work out. However, the council remained undaunted because a Housing Needs Survey had been undertaken and there continued to be evidence of the need for affordable housing. So the council was determined not to give up.
The specialist advisers on the process for affordable housing were (and are) Gloucestershire Rural Community Council (GRCC). This organisation employs a specialist Housing Enabler whose job is to support all Parish Councils in the Gloucestershire County area to firstly identify if there is a need for the housing and secondly to lead the Council through the various procedures involved. GRCC also find, through their various contacts, a Housing Association (which will buy the land and fund the building of the properties). The main role of the Parish Council is to try to find some local landowners who would be willing to sell their land for this purpose.
In 2010 GRCC approached Uley PC again to see if there was still a need for affordable housing and undertook a second Housing Needs Survey. This Survey identified that there was still a need, so the Council agreed to proceed, with GRCC’s help, through the formal process.
Uley PC then invited landowners to submit land for affordable housing and we were very fortunate that we had four local landowners willing to do this. These sites then needed to be objectively assessed by Stroud District Council planners for their suitability from a planning perspective, and by County Highways from the access point of view. At no time did Uley PC indicate a preference for any one or other site – this is not the role of the Council as this choice lies with the Housing Association, which will negotiate direct with the landowner for their preferred site, bearing in mind the responses from Stroud and Highways.
GRCC found us a Housing Association but as this one failed to get any government subsidy for Affordable Housing, they pulled out. GRCC then contacted Gloucestershire Rural Housing Association, which, in conjunction with Severn Vale Housing Society (which managed the project), were willing and able to help Uley, using mainly their own independent funds. Once they had stepped in, they undertook the detailed analysis of the sites, selected the architect, builder etc and prepared draft site plans.
The big job now for the parish council was to explain to the local community what was being proposed and how it all worked. The council reassured people that affordable housing was not ‘the thin end of the wedge‘ for lots of private housing and was protected under special planning rules. And the Council reiterated in particular that unlike council housing, these houses were solely for Uley people – people who lived in the village at that time. There were a number of presentations and ‘question and answer’ sessions at Parish Council meetings, and a lot of information about affordable housing was put on the website. The Council also held two public consultation walk-in events.
The Council also gave assurances to the village that the numbers of houses to be built would not exceed the numbers of people ‘in need’ identified in the Housing Needs Surveys – and had a third survey conducted to doubly prove that there continued to be a housing need. This confirmed the number of 7 homes.
Finally the Housing Association concluded negotiations with one of the landowners and submitted a formal planning application for 7 homes to Stroud District Council. The site selected is off Raglan Way on (former) agricultural land belonging to Charles Goldingham. Planning approval was given and the houses were built – a mix of housing for families and for single people, exactly as had been identified in the final Housing Needs Survey.
These houses are on Goldingham Close a new road off Raglan Way (opposite the new allotments, also kindly provided by Charles Goldingham). The decision as to who was allocated a house was made by Severn Vale Housing Society, in conjunction with Stroud Housing department. All the houses were allocated and occupied very quickly by Uley folk. And the applications outnumbered the numbers of properties available, which shows that there was most certainly a need in the village.
The parish council is pleased to have been able to provide affordable houses for Uley and is delighted with the high quality properties which have been built to complement our lovely village.
Uley Parish Councillor 2002 – 2014
Chairman, Uley Parish Council, 2010 – 2014