London, 12 March 2014, After a number of years the economic picture appears rosier; although observers note the emergence of a two speed economy with the focus of growth around London and the South East. Concerns arise that this will merely increase the North-South divide, exacerbated by disproportionate Government spending on infrastructure and transport projects in the capital. Already there are those who are forecasting another housing bubble in the ever expanding urban economy of the south east.
Up here in Yorkshire, growth is forecast to increase over the coming year; a position which is very much welcomed and which will provide confidence and the expectation that real wages will start to rise and encourage spending in the economy. It is important that the growth is broad-based and not just focussed upon the urban areas and major towns. Rural areas have their role to play and it is important that the growth strategies should support the diversification of the rural and land based economy, along with the provision of housing for all who need them in places they want to live.
Government policy is seeking to relax a number of constraints in an effort to simplify burdensome aspects of the planning bureaucracy. For example, making it easier to convert (redundant) farm buildings into residential use by increasing permitted development rights, matching a similar change to commercial rights for farmers, land and property owners. Protections are to remain for much of the protected parts of the region such as the three National Parks and the Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Green Belt. Whilst this approach may continue preserving many of the scenic parts of rural Yorkshire in aspic, much of the countryside is not so constrained and provides the opportunity to significantly boost the supply of homes not only in converted farm buildings, but on the edge of smaller settlements and villages.
Alongside these relaxations the Government’s sustainable development agenda is being more broadly defined in recent planning decisions to suggest that smaller settlements can be and are sustainable and that it is appropriate to direct development towards them. Such development can of itself be sustainable, contributing to supporting and enhancing facilities, services and amenities in villages and rural areas; so maintaining the viability of rural communities.
It will always be the case that development proposals should be appropriate in scale and design and sympathetic to their setting and surroundings, but these recent changes provide the opportunity to explore possibilities and enable a collaborative approach with planning authorities to allow creative solutions to come forward. There are many locations where such development should be encouraged across Yorkshire to underpin the wider economic recovery to support growth and to provide a range and mix of housing for all age groups and requirements, moreover promote and sustain a prosperous rural economy.