Proposed Submission Core Strategy

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15. LOCAL HOUSING NEEDS

Scope and Issues

15.1 Rother district is attractive to people relocating from other parts of the country, particularly people over the age of 45, who are generally able to out-bid local people for housing. This particularly affects the availability and affordability of housing for local people on lower incomes. As a result evidence suggests that 40% of households cannot affordable to rent or buy property within the district 44.

15.2 This chapter addresses the approach to meeting local housing need within the district, for both open market housing and affordable housing, within different spatial areas. It recognises that a failure to provide affordable housing for local people will have negative impacts on the district, in that more people, particularly young people, will be excluded from the housing market, which in turn does not support balanced, inclusive or vibrant communities.

15.3 There are also high proportions of older people within the district; providing housing which meets their needs is also important. Specific policies relating to housing for older people can be found in the Communities chapter.

15.4 Clear feedback from local people suggests housing should be provided in a way that supports local priorities and provides choice, including affordable housing.

15.5 The key is to create a balance between providing adequate affordable housing provision to meet need across the whole district, whilst ensuring that other Core Strategy objectives such as regeneration, job creation, and supporting local services are met, both now and in the future. This recognises the linkage between earnings and the affordability of housing.

Objectives

15.6 The Strategic Objective for in relation to local housing need, as set out in chapter 6, is:

‘To provide housing in a way that supports local priorities and provides choice, including affordable housing.’

(1) 15.7 This can be elaborated by the following specific housing objectives:

Local Housing Needs Objectives

  1. To provide and maintain a housing stock that supports sustainable, inclusive, communities in both towns and rural areas;

  2. To respond to the changing mix and needs of households, including more older person households;

  3. To increase the availability of affordable housing;

  4. To provide housing choices that encourage young people to live locally;

  5. To make effective use of existing housing stock, including bringing empty homes back into use.

Providing a mix of housing to meet to local need

15.8 By 2028, the number of projected households in Rother is expected to be 44,500 which equates to an increase of around 4,000 households between 2008-2028. This amounts to a household growth rate of around 200 households per year.

15.9 Projected household growth suggests that new households are likely to occupy broadly equal proportions of 1, 2 and 3+ bedroom homes45.

(1) 15.10 There is a much greater stock of smaller and rented property in urban areas than the rural areas and this works against the need to attract younger people, particularly to rural areas. Housing affordability in rural Rother is especially acute, particularly as a product of high house prices associated with a stock of larger dwellings in these areas 46. Providing smaller dwellings (both market and affordable), as well as more affordable housing, should go some way to provide for this need. It could allow older residents to downsize and stay within villages, as well as provide housing for young people.

15.11 Evidence suggests that the housing market is weaker in Bexhill 47, where property values are lower. There is also a large stock of private rented property within Bexhill (much higher than proportions found in the rural areas) and this provides a valuable supply of cheaper housing stock to households in the area, although much of this stock is provided in small houses and flats. The Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) suggests that is appropriate to provide more accommodation for families and younger households in Bexhill, in order to support wider policy objectives.

15.12 The Housing Strategy identifies a requirement to develop a more balanced housing stock in both the private and social sectors, with a need for more flats and terraced houses, particularly in the private sector.

15.13 It is appropriate to seek to redress the limited number of smaller homes in the rural areas of the district by setting a target of 30% 1 and 2 bed market homes in rural areas, mainly 2 bed homes. This approach offers flexibility in terms of occupation in the long-term, relevant to both young and older households.

15.14 The stock of social rented accommodation is biased towards smaller properties and the pattern of re-lets is biased towards the smallest properties. However, unlike Rother’s market stock, the social rented stock is biased towards smaller dwellings, with only 40% having 2 bedrooms or more.

15.15 Therefore, new social rented housing should focus on larger dwellings in order to address broad imbalances in the stock. An appropriate strategic target mix is:-

  1. 10-30% 1 bedroom properties
  2. 30-50% 2 bedroom properties
  3. 20-30% 3 bedroom properties
  4. 20-30% 4 + bedroom properties

15.16 Given the totality of housing need within the district, the SHMA recommends a broad spilt of 65%:35% (social rented and intermediate tenures respectively), although indicates there should be flexibility in this split. However, in some rural areas, it may be appropriate to seek all affordable housing as 100% social rented accommodation given the shortage of social rented homes in these areas.

15.17 There are specific sectors of the community with specific residential needs. These are often related to the more vulnerable members of society, or those who would benefit from a higher level of on-site support. Therefore, it is important to encourage increased housing choices in terms of specialist accommodation.

15.18 The Housing Strategy and the SHMA recognise the need to plan for different types of housing in order to develop a more balanced housing stock in both the private and social sectors. As well as issues of the stock of smaller and rented property in rural areas, they consider the need to plan to promote economic development, which could indicate the desirability of building houses attractive to potential in-migrants and hence, family housing. This is particularly relevant to Bexhill.

15.19 In determining the appropriate housing mix within new developments, an assessment should be made within the context of the surrounding area, including the following:

  • Local tenure mix and whether there is a concentration of a particular tenure of housing that could benefit from diversification or greater choice
  • Local household characteristics and whether there is a bias towards certain types of households
  • Local economic performance and whether there are any issues around deprivation and regeneration which need to be taken into account
  • Site specific viability

(7) Policy LHN1: Achieving Mixed and Balanced Communities

In order to support mixed, balanced and sustainable communities, housing developments should:

  1. be of a size, type and mix which will reflect both current and projected housing needs within the district and locally;

  2. in rural areas, provide a mix of housing sizes and types, with at least 30% one and two bedroom dwellings (being mostly 2 bed);

  3. in Bexhill, contribute to increased provision of family dwellings, unless site circumstances make this inappropriate;

  4. in larger developments (6+ units), provide housing for a range of differing household types;

  5. in relation to affordable housing, contribute to an overall balance of 65% social rented and 35% intermediate affordable housing;

  6. ensure that affordable housing is integrated with market housing, where practical;

  7. provide a proportion of homes to Lifetime Homes Standard.

15.20 In calculating the number of smaller dwellings in rural areas to be provided in accordance with policy HO1, where a scheme does not provide a whole unit on site, the requirement applies to the nearest whole unit.

15.21 There is a large stock of empty homes in the district and the Council has an Empty Homes Action Plan to make best use of existing housing stock. Whilst a reduction in empty homes cannot count towards housing completion figures, the initiative will increase the available housing stock. Improvements to the condition of private sector stock can also help drive regeneration and renewal and are therefore encouraged.

15.22 In terms of levels of homelessness within the district, homelessness applications are low compared to the national average48. This is the result of pro-active prevention of homelessness activities through a range of services in line with the Homelessness Strategy.

Affordable housing provision

(2) 15.23 ‘Affordable housing’ is defined as housing with a subsidy to enable the price or rent to be substantially lower than the prevailing market prices or rents in the district and where mechanisms exist to ensure the housing remains affordable for those who cannot compete in the existing housing market.

(1) 15.24 A number of studies have been undertaken in order to identify the housing need and demand across the district. The Housing Needs Survey (2005) identified that 593 affordable housing units are needed each year, which is 256 more than existing re-let supply within the district. This far exceeds what could be delivered by way of affordable housing through new development given the overall housing targets within the Core Strategy, as the implied level of housing growth to meet this identified need in the district would be unsustainable. In terms of levels for affordable housing delivery over the plan period, a target of 850 affordable dwellings has been set to be built between 2011 – 2028, which roughly equates to 50 dwellings per annum.

15.25 In determining the appropriate thresholds and percentages for affordable housing in the district, regard is made to the evidence, particularly in terms of the SHMA and Affordable Housing Viability Assessment, whilst also considering the aims and objectives relating to regeneration and job creation. Further consideration of these matters can be found within the ‘Affordable Housing Background Paper’.

15.26 Both the SHMA and the Affordable Housing Viability Study make the distinction between the differing needs and circumstances of the identified spatial areas of the district and the need for distinct approaches in these areas.

15.27 These studies show that there is a real need for affordable housing in the district, and the potential to deliver affordable homes as part of new housing. Affordability issues are amplified in the rural areas. Therefore, while It is considered right to keep the threshold in Bexhill at 15, lower thresholds in Rye and, Battle, of 10 dwellings, and in the rural areas, where contributions will be expected from all (1 or more net units) housing schemes, will help address local needs.

15.28 At the same time, given the need for regeneration and job creation in the district, it is concluded that lowering percentage requirements for affordable housing in Bexhill (30%), Battle (35%) and Rye (30%), will help kick-start the regeneration effort in these areas, as well as support overall housing supply. In addition, where housing is used as enabling development in mixed use schemes, consideration may be made to other factors, notably the importance of providing jobs locally.

15.29 In all cases, affordable housing should be provided on-site, with the exception of sites in rural areas, where schemes of less than 5 units should provide a payment in lieu of on-site provision, in accordance with the Rother District Council Affordable Housing Supplementary Planning Document.

(2) 15.30 All affordable housing should be indistinguishable from market dwellings and ‘pepper potted’ individually, or in clusters of no more than 5% of the total housing on the site, up to a maximum cluster of 5 houses or 10 flats. Successfully integrating the affordable rented and shared ownership units provides a sustainable, balanced and mixed community which brings many social and economic benefits.

(11) Policy LHN2: Affordable Housing

On housing sites or mixed use developments, the Council will expect the following percentages of affordable housing within the district:

  1. In Bexhill and Hastings Fringes, 30% on-site affordable housing on schemes of 15 or more dwellings (or 0.5 hectares or more);

  2. In Rye, 30% on-site affordable housing on schemes of 10 or more dwellings (or 0.3 hectares or more);

  3. In Battle, 35% on-site affordable housing on schemes of 10 or more dwellings (or 0.3 hectares or more);

  4. In the Rural Areas:

    1. 40% on-site affordable housing on schemes of 5 dwellings or more; or

    2. A financial contribution, on a sliding scale up to the equivalent of providing 40% affordable housing, in lieu of on-site provision on all residential schemes of less than 5 dwellings.

Where it can be demonstrated that these requirements would either render otherwise suitable development unviable, or where the local need for affordable housing would no longer justify the above levels, the Council will respectively expect the proportion of affordable housing to be the most that does not undermine viability, or is needed locally. An exception to this may be made when the main purpose of the housing is to support business development, where job creation is a priority.

In normal circumstances, the full affordable housing obligation should be met on-site, and of a comparable design quality to the market units onsite. Affordable units should be ‘pepperpotted’ individually, or in small clusters. In all cases, planning permission will be subject to a legal agreement to ensure nomination rights and that the affordable housing will remain available.

Note: If a site comes forward as two or more separate development schemes, of which one or more falls below the appropriate threshold, the Council will seek an appropriate level of affordable housing on each part to match in total the provision that would have been required on the site as a whole.

Where proposals are made for fewer than 15 dwellings in Bexhill and Rye, and 10 dwellings in Battle, the Council will have regard to whether size of the site would make it capable to accommodating more than that number.

15.31 Further advice on the provision of commuted payments and the mechanisms for the delivery of affordable housing will be set out in a revised Supplementary Planning Document.

Rural Exception Sites

15.32 The delivery of affordable housing in rural areas has been limited over recent years, being generally a reflection of the smaller scale of housing development in these areas. The Council has a ‘Rural Exception Sites’ Project specifically devised to tackle the problem of the lack of affordable rural housing. These are small sites which may exceptionally be granted consent outside settlement development boundaries contrary to normal planning policies, specifically to secure local needs affordable housing. These sites are a proactive step towards helping to address the issue of affordable housing shortages in rural areas.

(3) Policy LHN3: Rural Exception Sites

In exceptional circumstances, planning permission may be granted for small site residential development outside development boundaries in order to meet a local need for affordable housing in rural areas. Such development will be permitted where the following requirements are met:-

  1. It helps to meet a proven local housing need for affordable housing in the village/parish, as demonstrated in an up-to-date assessment of local housing need;

  2. It is of a size, tenure, mix and cost appropriate to the assessed local housing need;

  3. It is well related to an existing settlement and its services, including access to public transport;

  4. The development is supported or initiated by the Parish Council;

  5. The local planning authority is satisfied that the identified local housing need cannot be met within the settlement development boundary; and

  6. The development does not significantly harm the character of the rural area, settlement or the landscape, and meets other normal local planning and highway authority criteria, in line with other Council policies.

In all cases, planning permission will be subject to a legal agreement to ensure that the accommodation remains available to meet local housing needs in perpetuity, and that people with the greatest local connection are given highest priority in both initial and future occupancy.

Allocations for Affordable Housing

15.33 To further encourage much needed affordable housing in rural areas, another appropriate and effective means of addressing rural local housing need is through allocating land specifically for affordable housing.

15.34 Such allocations may also include a small amount of open market housing to incentivise development. It is considered that such an approach will encourage landowners to bring sites forward. Such sites may be allocated through the Site Allocations and Development DPD.

(1) 15.35 Allocating larger sites (of 15 or more dwellings) for wholly or substantially affordable housing, particularly social rented housing, would likely be contrary to the aim of mixed, balanced communities. In smaller settlements, it may be appropriate to allocate proportionally smaller sites so not to harm the character of the area.

15.36 In general, schemes allocated wholly or substantially affordable homes can be expected to secure grant, since there is less value available to cross-subsidise the provision of affordable housing.

(1) Policy LHN4: Sites for Wholly or Substantially Affordable Housing

In order to meet identified local need for affordable housing, specific sites may be allocated within the rural areas for wholly or substantially affordable housing either within or adjacent to settlement boundaries. Affordable housing provided on these sites should remain available in perpetuity.

(1) 15.37 Housing for both younger and older people, including specialised housing is considered in the Communities chapter, while proposals to include ‘land-based workers’ within a local definition of key workers, is in the Rural Areas chapter.

Gypsies, Travellers and Travelling Showpeople

Scope and Issues

15.38 The District Council is required by national policy to include policies and site allocations for Gypsies and Travellers where necessary to meet identified needs. The Housing Act (2004) introduced the requirement that local authorities undertake Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessments (GTAAs) alongside reviews of the housing needs of the rest of the community.

15.39 Currently, there is one County Council owned permanent Gypsy and Traveller site within the District, and is situated in Redlands Lane, Robertsbridge off the A21 and has existed for 20 years. The site itself consists of 8 permanent pitches49 each with its own amenity building.

15.40 Since 2006, there have been 2 permanent Gypsy and Traveller pitches granted planning permission, 1 pitch at Buckholt Lane, Bexhill and 1 additional pitch at Redlands Lane, totalling 8 pitches on this site. As at 1st April 2011, there were 3 additional pitches with temporary planning permission within the District.

Identifying local need

Permanent50 site provision

15.41 The Council has been working with the other Local Authorities in East Sussex (including Brighton and Hove) in order to assess the local needs for Gypsies, Travellers and Travelling Showpeople across the County. Information relating to the methodology for determining the level of pitch provision can be found in the Gypsy and Traveller Background Paper.

15.42 The evidence base51 considers that 7 additional permanent pitches should be provided for Gypsies and Travellers within Rother between 2006-2016. Taking account of the permanent provision already made since 2006, this leaves an outstanding need for a further 5 permanent pitches to 2016.

15.43 In line with the general provisions for the identification of land for housing and the maintenance of a sufficient, continuous supply of available sites in line with targets, it is also proposed to increase permanent pitch provision beyond 2016 based on projected increases in local Traveller households. This equates to 6 permanent pitches (based on 3% compound growth per annum) over the period 2016-2028.

15.44 The GTAA identified that the main need was for small sites for individual families or small family groups.

Transit52 site provision

15.45 There is currently no transit provision within the District, however East Sussex County Council owns and manages a transit site on behalf of all the authorities in East Sussex a nine pitch transit site with a resident site manager just outside Lewes, called Bridie’s Tan. The site is one of only a few in the region, and has recently been completely rebuilt following a successful bid for capital funding from the government.

15.46 In terms of transit provision, a need has been identified for 8 pitches (potentially in 2 sites of 4 pitches) across East Sussex in order to create a network of sites across the County and the wider South East region in the vicinity of the A27/A259 corridor. Work will continue with Local Authorities across East Sussex to identify land in order to accommodate unmet demand for transit provision53.

Travelling showpeople provision

15.47 Consideration should also be made to the needs of travelling showpeople within the District, under the provisions of Circular 04/2007. Although the work of travelling showpeople is primarily nomadic, they nevertheless require secure, permanent bases for the storage of their equipment and more particularly for residential purposes. Evidence suggests that there is a single Travelling Showperson’s site in the District and there is no identified need for additional pitches. However, if and when they arise, Policy HO6 provides an appropriate criteria-based policy to determine site suitability.

(2) Policy LHN5: Sites for the needs of Gypsies and Travellers.

Provision will be made for 5 permanent pitches within Rother for Gypsies and Travellers over the period 2011-2016, and a further 6 pitches between 2016 and 2028.

Sites will be allocated in the Site Allocations and Development DPD, taking into account any sites granted permission in the interim.

Site selection will take into account the Strategy objectives, the future needs of occupiers and the likely availability of sites for its intended occupiers. Sites should meet the criteria set in Policy HO6.

15.48 Sites will need to be deliverable, either through being (or proposed to be) publicly owned, owned by gypsies/travellers, have a willing landowner or, possibly, promoted by developers as part of a comprehensive scheme that addresses the full range of housing need.

15.49 Evidence from the GTAA54 considers that small-scale sites (less than 10 pitches) are preferred by the Gypsy and Traveller community to ensure family bonds are retained and to encourage integration with the local community.

Site Selection Criteria

15.50 The Council must provide location criteria for the development of sites for Gypsies, Travellers and Travelling Showpeople. In all cases, the location requirements of gypsy sites will be similar to those for housing sites.

15.51 Whilst the Council recognises that accommodation for Gypsies, Travellers and Travelling Showpeople should be provided within existing settlements in the first instance, it recognises that this may be impractical, particularly as local Gypsies, Travellers and Travelling Showpeople may not be able to financially compete for sites here all residential development is acceptable. Therefore, an exceptions site approach to providing sites will be adopted.

(7) Policy LHN6: Gypsies, Travellers and Travelling Showpeople Criteria

Site allocations will be made and/or planning permission granted for Gypsy, Traveller and Travelling Showpeople sites, when all of the following criteria are met:

  1. The site is not located in a nature conservation designated area, in an area at risk from flooding (flood zones 3a & 3b or a functional floodplain), in close proximity to a Source Protection Zone or significantly contaminated land;

  2. The site should not result in an unacceptable visual or landscape impact, especially in the High Weald AONB taking account of proposed landscaping or screening;

  3. The site is located within or close to an existing settlement and is accessible to local services by foot, by cycle or by public transport;

  4. The site can be adequately accessed by vehicles towing caravans and provides adequate provision for parking, turning, and access for emergency vehicles;

  5. The site is not disproportionate in scale to the existing settlement;

  6. Mixed use sites should not unreasonably harm the amenity of adjoining properties;

  7. In the case of sites for Travelling Showpeople, the site must also be suitable for the storage of large items of mobile equipment;

Where planning permission is granted, appropriate conditions or planning obligations will be imposed to ensure occupation of the site is restricted to those persons genuinely falling into the definition of Gypsies, Travellers and Travelling Showpeople.


44 Strategic Housing Market Assessment, 2010 45 Strategic Housing Market Assessment, 2010 46 Housing Market Assessment, 2006, Strategic Housing Market Assessment Update 2010 47 Affordable Housing Viability Study, 2010 48 Rother District Council Homelessness Strategy 2008-2013 49 The site was recently (2011) subdivided to make provision for 8 pitches, utilising a double pitch into 2 separate pitches 50 Sites where the same Gypsy and Traveller families occupy all year round 51 Gypsies, Travellers and Travelling Showpeople Background Paper 52 These are permanent sites that allow Travellers to stay for short periods (up to 12 weeks) when they are passing through an area 53 This transit provision could be in the form of an emergency stopping place. Emergency Stopping Places are small pieces of land identified for short term stays (no longer than 28 days in a year); where Travellers can be tolerated for a short while in order to move them from a more unsuitable location 54 Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment (2005)
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