Core Strategy Issues & Options

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5. THEME 1: Balanced, SAFE and Inclusive Communities

Key Issue:

5.1 How to plan for the diverse needs of all sections of local communities, including in terms of the nature and affordability of housing, the need to feel safe and have well-developed community support networks?

Context

5.2 The development of strong, vibrant and sustainable communities and the promotion of community cohesion in both urban and rural areas is promoted in Government guidance. (Planning Policy Statement 1, paragraph 14).The Statement goes on: 'this means meeting the diverse needs of all people in existing and future communities, promoting personal well-being, social cohesion and inclusion and creating equal opportunity for all citizens' (paragraph 14).

5.3 Government also intends that everyone should have access to a decent home (Planning Policy Guidance Note 3, paragraph 1).This involves achieving a closer alignment between needs and the types of housing being provided.

5.4 The housing needs of the communities in Rother are diverse. The current average household size in Rother of 2.17 people is already one of the lowest in the South East. Also, the District's demographic profile is of an ageing population.

Figure 1
Figure 1: Population Estimates for Rother, 2006 & 2026

5.5 This has implications for the range and extent of housing and support services, particularly where older people choose to live independently for longer, as well as for the size of housing needed.

5.6 The concept of 'Lifetime Homes' is one where homes are designed to accommodate the changes to the circumstances of people living in them; for example by including door widths which are wide enough to allow wheelchair access. The demographic trend also suggests a need for more sheltered or extra-care housing in the future.

5.7 The Council's Corporate Plan promotes a re-balancing in terms of age structure with a more vibrant, youthful demographic profile. This would serve to better support the local economy and help ensure that Rother does not simply become a focus for retirement living. However, this would mean creating a shift in trends.

5.8 The availability of affordable housing, as well as jobs, has a key bearing on retaining young people in the area. First time buyers find it increasingly difficult to get on the housing ladder.A recent study of the local housing market has shown a pattern of in-migration that reinforces this trend with a disproportionately high number of in-migrants in the 45+ age category who are 'down-shifting' in terms of their work commitments.

Affordable housing is defined as 'that which is provided for local people who are unable to meet their housing needs in the housing market without a level of subsidy because to do so would require more than 25-30% of their net household income.' (from the Rother District Local Plan).

It includes 'intermediate housing' which is that available at below market prices for example through a shared ownership scheme.

The Rother Housing Needs Study (2005) revealed that there is a need for some 250 additional affordable homes each year up to 2011.

Figure 2:Average Household income and Average House price 2000 and 2005

 

2000

2005

%

increase

Rother

Average household income 1

�21,200

�29,160

37.5%

Average house price 2

�120,806

�224,920

86%

East Sussex

Average household income 1

�22,800

�30,148

32%

Average house price 2

�116,733

�205,387

76%

1 data from ESCC

2 data from the Land Registry, for the Oct to Dec quarter

5.9 These migration trends, combined with the pattern of housing supply, tend to reinforce existing patterns of social segregation and work against the achievement of balanced and mixed local communities, especially in rural areas.

5.10 This is because housing in rural Rother is, on average, more expensive than in the urban areas and there is a much greater stock of smaller and rented property in urban areas than the rural areas. Also, looking ahead over the timescale of the Local Plan (to 2011), the majority of new housing development is planned in urban areas.

5.11 In response to the challenge of providing affordable housing in rural areas, national policy now allows local planning authorities to allocate land in villages specifically for affordable housing.

5.12 There is also a requirement to address currently unmet accommodation needs of gypsies and travellers, and this is the subject of an ongoing assessment.

5.13 Retaining more young people locally cuts across the 'key issues' identified in Section 3 for example their education and leisure needs (infrastructure & community facilities), employment opportunities (prosperity for all), and their access to services and facilities (communications and accessibility). Such needs encompass those of children as well as young adults furthering their education or starting work. The challenge is for Rother to be a place where young people receive a good start in life.

5.14 Ready access to community facilities and shops for day-to-day purchases, is important to supporting most sections of the community, notably the elderly.

5.15 The relative remoteness of some rural areas has implications for service delivery to these communities. The retention and, where possible, improvement of local service provision seems central to ensuring sustainable communities.

5.16 There are localised pockets of relative deprivation in Bexhill and also in the eastern parts of the District, and the impacts of strategies on these areas may need particular attention.

5.17 Currently, Rother's population cannot be said to be ethnically diverse. Over the timeframe of the Core Strategy, the relative balance between different ethnic groups may alter, possibly influenced by the in-migration of other EU nationals.

5.18 The voluntary sector plays an important role in delivering services to the community and the continuing capacity of the sector to help meet such needs is an issue. Making provision for physical activity to support levels of health and well-being is addressed in the Infrastructure and Community Facilities section.

5.19 Crime levels in Rother are low, but the fear that an incident may occur, including incidents of anti-social behaviour, influences peoples' view of their safety. Good levels of incidental surveillance from buildings and public areas can contribute to a community's 'peace of mind'. Improving overall access to housing, employment and leisure opportunities as well as tackling deprivation may also be factors in deterring criminal behaviour.

Strategy Directions

5.20 The relevant policy in the Local Plan already requires a significant proportion of affordable housing to be provided in new developments and the implementation of this policy, supported by the Council's recently adopted Supplementary Planning Document on Affordable Housing, needs to be monitored. Subject to this monitoring, options for inclusion in the Core Strategy may relate to maximising the provision of affordable housing.

5.21 Looking ahead, there may be more potential to secure a greater proportion of affordable housing where land values are higher, which could yield more homes for local people in the villages.

5.22 Advantage may be taken of the ability to allocate land in villages specifically for affordable housing.

5.23 To encourage more young people to stay in Rother, return to Rother or be attracted to Rother as a place to live and work, will necessitate easier access to housing.

5.24 A greater emphasis may be given to enabling people to get on the housing ladder by providing more, small, cheaper housing and increasing the amount of 'intermediate housing' provided in the future.

5.25 Maintaining the proportion of children, and hence school numbers, in the population, would suggest providing a greater proportion of family housing.This would also attract families to help support the local economy and contribute to the vibrancy of the area.

5.26 The demographic trends may be acknowledged both by providing a greater proportion of housing designed so older people can remain living in their homes for longer and receive care at home, and by providing a greater proportion of housing specifically for older people (sheltered, extra care housing) to move into when they can no longer live without support.

5.27 Community safety issues are addressed in particular through specific local initiatives, particularly those guided by the Safer Rother Partnership to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour as well as the fear of crime.

(35) Question 4 - How should we plan for the diverse needs of all sections of local communities, including in terms of the nature and affordability of housing, the need to feel safe and have well-developed community support networks?

In considering this, you are invited to comment specifically on:

  • Whether particular types of housing should be provided as a priority (e.g. affordable, sheltered, smaller homes, family housing)?
  • How can the specific needs of both younger and older residents be best met?
  • What actions can best support rural communities?
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