High rural house prices would turn a real Emmerdale ‘into a ghost village’

According to the Federation almost two thirds (62%) of the main characters in ITV’s Emmerdale would not be able to afford to buy in a typical Yorskhire village in real life with many of those on lower incomes being pushed into cheaper, urbanised areas.

Three of the nine lead characters in the popular Doc Martin series on ITV would not be able to live in the fictional village of Portwenn. Doc Martin is filmed in the affluent Cornish village of Port Isaac where property prices start at £140,000 and go up to £2.5m.

The same problem holds true for other rural dramas, with 22 of the 52 main characters in Radio 4’s The Archers likely to be priced out of their home village of Ambridge given the shortage of affordable housing in the countryside.

The Federation looked at the living conditions and estimated salaries of 106 characters in the three leading TV and radio dramas set in the countryside, finding that a total of 53 would be highly unlikely to be able to live in their home villages in real life.

The findings included:

– Leading Emmerdale characters, such as pub chef Marlon Dingle (who would earn around £20,000) and factory worker Lizzie Lakely (who would earn about £14,000) would be priced out of the village, where the real life price of a home would be at least £150,000.
– Farmhand Andy Sugden would also be priced out of a real-life Emmerdale, given his salary would be around £21,000. In some parts of Yorkshire the average price of a home tops £240,000, with villages and market towns generally more expensive than larger towns and cities.
– Surgery receptionist Pauline Lamb in ITV’s Doc Martin would only earn about £15,000, meaning most local homes would be well beyond her reach. And Portwenn’s local PC Joe Penhale would need to earn more than twice his salary of around £30,000 to get onto the housing ladder in rural Cornwall.
– In the Archers, hotel deputy manager Roy Tucker and his wife Hayley would earn around £50,000 between them. With two children to look after however, the couple would struggle to find a suitable home of their own. They currently remain in Ambridge only because Roy’s father provided a home for them at Willow Farm.
– Archer’s characters Eddie Grundy and his long-suffering wife, Clarrie, have a number of small income streams between them, but with combined earnings of around £32,000 they would be very unlikely to afford to live in a real life Ambridge after losing their farm in 2000.
– The average cost of a home in rural England is now over 11 times the average rural wage, with local residents needing an income of £55,000 to get a mortgage. The average salary in the countryside is around £20,000. More than 750,000 people are on affordable housing waiting lists in rural areas of England.

Commenting, National Housing Federation chief executive David Orr said: ‘While most people may like the idea of living in a village like Emmerdale and popping down the Woolpack for a pint, the reality is that many people on modest incomes can no longer afford to live in the countryside because of high house prices.

‘The knock-on effect is that village shops, pubs and local services are being put under threat of closure as their regular users are priced away to more affordable urban areas.

‘These programmes may be fictional, but without more affordable homes villages across the country are going to struggle to keep local people in the community. Just a handful of new homes in villages that need them would go a long way towards ensuring we have living, working rural communities.’

He added: ‘To ensure the right number of homes are built in rural areas, local authorities need to develop an understanding of the extent of housing need in their area, updated every three years, and come up with an action plan to deliver affordable homes.’

The Federation’s research on whether or not soap characters would be able to live in the countryside is based on figures found in average salary websites.

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