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Government to safeguard future of rural communities

The Review has identified both the specific challenges facing different rural areas and the similar issues facing both rural and urban economies. The Government will therefore give Local Authorities more flexibility to tackle the issues their communities face and the new measures announced today will help:

* Small villages to provide the homes they need for local families priced out of the housing market by encouraging local authorities and developers to identify "exception" sites that can provide more affordable homes;

* Rural businesses to get planning permission for sites that are suitable given their rural setting through a refreshed approach to planning policy that recognises their distinct needs;

* Medium-sized rural towns to develop sustainable new neighbourhoods rather than building soulless housing estates on the edge of town, including through a new £1million competition to encourage best practice.

To help underline the important role rural areas can play in delivering economic prosperity, a new single policy statement will be published combining existing planning guidance aimed at delivering sustainable economic development in urban and rural areas and town centres. This new single Planning Policy Statement will be published for consultation soon.

Beckett said: "We simply must take action to overcome the unsustainable pressures facing the future of rural communities. All too often the high cost of homes and low wages are pricing young families out of their communities, with the average rural home costing up to ten times the average salary in some rural areas.

"These subtle but important changes are the key to getting the balance right between protection and development in the countryside. This will give local communities the flexibility they need to take the right decisions on the individual issues they face."

Irranca-Davies said: "Good, affordable housing is critical to rural communities and local economies – rural businesses struggle to find staff when so many people are forced to leave to find better housing and opportunities elsewhere.

"The Government is committed to rural communities, and as the rural heart of government Defra will do everything it can, working closely with the Department for Communities and Local Government and others, to continue to support measures that have a positive impact on rural housing and businesses."

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