Landowners are essential in helping reverse their rural communities decline by providing a Rural Exception Site for housing development. A lack of affordable housing in rural areas is severely limiting the opportunities for people to work and live in their communities – this has a negative impact on the diversity and vibrancy of those communities. Many families struggle to find a home in their community at a price they can afford and are forced to move away. Local shops, Post Offices, Pubs and Schools are closing due to an ageing village population.

What is a Rural Exception Site?

A rural exception site is defined in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) as:

“Small sites used for affordable housing in perpetuity where sites would not normally be used for housing. Rural exceptions sites seek to address the needs of the local community by accommodating households who either are current residents or have an existing family or employment connection. A proportion of market homes may be allowed on the site at the local planning authority’s discretion, for example where essential to enable the delivery of affordable unity without grant funding.”

In accordance with Policy S2 in the Local Plan, Tier 2 settlements (Axbridge, Cannington, Nether Stowey, Puriton, Wedmore, Woolavington) will accommodate a proportion of the strategic housing requirement. It is anticipated that housing sites will be identified either through neighbourhood planning initiatives or through a subsequent site allocations document. In the interim, a criteria based policy will enable the release of sites to come forward. This ensures housing delivery is not unnecessarily or unreasonably delayed.

The Local Plan makes provision for the identification and release of greenfield sites for Tier 3 and 4 settlements (see more information below which identifies Tier 3 & 4 villages). These villages can provide either 100% affordable housing or a mix of market and affordable housing (cross subsidy) where this brings demonstrable benefits to the local community, including meeting a local affordable housing need and infrastructure investment.

How is the Affordable Housing Need established?

Any rural exception scheme will require an identified affordable housing need. The planning application will require evidence of affordable housing need and viability of the scheme.

The Affordable Housing Development Team have a rolling programme to carry out Housing Need Assessments across the Tier 3 and 4 settlements. Contact the team to see if your parish has an up-to-date survey or look on our website.

Once the Affordable Housing Need has been established, it will shape the design of the scheme and provide the number of affordable homes that cannot be exceeded on site.

Total number of homesMarket Homes (60%)Affordable Homes (40%)
Total number of homes25Market Homes (60%)15Affordable Homes (40%)10
Total number of homes20Market Homes (60%)12Affordable Homes (40%)8
Total number of homes15Market Homes (60%)9Affordable Homes (40%)6

In Tier 2 settlements the starting point would be to provide 100% affordable housing, however if viability was not achievable then market homes can be provided so long as they do not exceed the number of affordable homes. The table below demonstrates the number of affordable homes (as identified by a Housing Need Assessment) and the maximum number of market homes to be developed.

How do I know if I have a suitable site?

Sites that are suitable for development as a rural exception site are usually adjacent too or well related to the settlement boundary.

  • A field that is only used for rough grazing
  • Part of a larger field which wouldn’t interfere with the rest of the farming activities
  • A parcel of land with some buildings on which are no longer suitable for the farming activity (please note: some agricultural buildings may have Permitted Development Rights)
  • A site which was put forward to be incorporated into the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment but was not allocated

The Affordable Housing Development Team carry out a desktop assessment of the site which follows the criteria set out below:

Sequential Site Search – Stage 1

The council’s Planning Policy team first request that any suitable, available and achievable sites inside the settlement boundary are explored for their potential to deliver affordable housing.

Sequential Site Search – Stage 2

If there are no suitable, available or achievable sites inside the settlement boundary, the site search expands to include parcels of land adjacent too or well related to the settlement boundary.

Once a site has been identified the Affordable Housing Development Team carry out an initial desktop assessment on whether the site is, available, suitable and achievable for housing development using the following steps:

Assessment Criteria 1: Site Availability for Housing

A site is considered available for development, when, on the best information available, there is confidence that there are no legal or ownership problems, such as multiple ownerships, ransom strips, tenancies or operation requirements of landowners. The key question asked under this assessment is a simple one. Does the landowner which to dispose of their land to support the provision of affordable housing?

Assessment Criteria 2: Site Suitability for Housing

Factors such as planning policy, restrictions and limitations (designations, protected areas, existing planning policy and corporate, or community strategy policy), any physical problems or limitations (access, infrastructure, ground conditions, flood risk hazardous risks, pollution or contamination), any potential impacts (upon landscape features and conservation) and any environmental conditions.

Assessment Criteria 3: Site Achievability for Housing

A site is considered achievable for development where there is a reasonable prospect that housing will be developed on the site at a particular point in time. This is essentially a judgement about the economic viability of a site and the financial capacity of the affordable housing provider to build the new homes.

What is my Land worth?

Exception sites have a unique land value between agricultural value and hope value. The value will be determined by a number of factors, these include the size, location and type of land. Along with the above, there can also be other site constraints that could affect the value of the land such as utilities, pollution, drainage, access, highways and covenants.

The average number of homes per acre in rural areas is approximately 12. The shape of the plot, the type and size of the properties and access arrangements will determine this number. This is just a guide, please contact the Affordable Housing Development Team for further information.

As a guide only a site that would provide 100% affordable housing only, landowners should expect to receive on average £10k per plot. If your site was providing 10 affordable homes then the guide value would be £100,000.

The cross subsidy Planning Policy for housing development provides market housing and affordable housing, landowners should expect to receive on average £15k per plot. If your site was providing 9 market units and 6 affordable housing units then the guide value would be £225,000.

Often Land Agents/Developers/Contractors offer significantly more, however it is unlikely that they will have valued the site taking into consideration the large percentage of affordable housing. The economic viability of the site is a determining factor when a planning permission is submitted to the Local Authority.

Community buy in

The prerequisite to any successful affordable housing development in rural areas is a strong community support. The attitude of the local community can make or break an affordable housing project. The Affordable Housing Development Team can help with the engagement of a Town/Parish Council and Community to help foster support and understand the benefits of the development.

Experience shows that any successful affordable housing project requires early engagement and support from committed Parish Council’s and the wider community. Part of the role of the Parish Council is to ensure that any project is kept on the local agenda and ensures engagement with the wider community on any progress and decisions made.

There are three golden rules:

  • Ensure you engage early to dispel any myths and rumours
  • Ensure that the scheme is developed with them and not imposed upon them
  • Ensure you are honest, listen and try and accommodate their concerns, if their concerns are not achievable explain why

Neighbourhood Plans

Many rural villages are making use of Localism Act 2011, which gives local communities powers to shape development in their area through a Neighbourhood Plan.

Neighbourhood Planning provides opportunities for communities to plan for the future of their neighbourhood.

What a Neighbourhood Plan can do:

  • Identify key priorities for a community that relate to use of land
  • Define where new homes, commercial premises or other development should be built
  • Identify what new development should look like
  • Protect locally valued buildings or green space
  • Add detail to district planning policy

What a Neighbourhood Plan cannot do:

  • Be used to prevent development happening in an area
  • Propose less growth than in the Local Plan
  • Be prepared without community input, consultation and support
  • Conflict with local, national or EU policies

For further information, please see The Local Plan.

Who do I contact to look at my site?

There is no single point of contact, however to reduce risk and cost discussing your site the Affordable Housing Development Team will be able to give you an in principle idea of whether your site is suitable for development. If your site is suitable for development the Team will be able to give you a ball park price you can expect to receive. Part of this process includes the site being taken to the council’s Internal Development Group. The Internal Development Group consists of Planners, Planning Policy Officers, Conservation Officer, Landscape Officer and the Housing Development Team. A without prejudice written feedback can be obtained to confirm the site is suitable and achievable for development.

You could also contact a Developer, a Housing Association a Building Contractor or an Architect who will be able to advise the ability to develop your site.

If your village has a Community Land Trust they may be interested in your site to develop affordable housing which the Community would own as well as receiving a small income on the properties. Information on Community Land Trust’s can be found here Community Land Trust.

Potential Issues and How to Solve Them

Tax Implications

If you were to sell your land for development, you may have to pay Capital Gains Tax. This is where you sell an asset for more than you purchased it for. You will pay tax on the additional money you have sold it for on top of what you originally paid. Therefore, if you had bought a piece of land for £25,000 and sold it for £40,000, you would pay Capital Gain Tax on the £15,000 difference in sale price.

We recommend you get professional advice on financial tax implications before you consider selling your land.

More Information

As described above the Local Plan makes provision for the release of greenfield rural exception sites for the identified villages in Tier 2, 3 and 4. The table below sets out the villages in these Tiers.

Tier 2Axbridge, Cannington, Nether Stowey, Puriton, Wedmore, Woolavington
Tier 3Ashcott, Berrow, Brean, Brent Knoll, Combwich & Otterhampton, East Brent & Rooksbridge, East Huntspill, Edington, Lympsham, mark, Middlezoy, Pawlett, Shipham, Spaxton, Wembdon, West Huntspill, Westonzoyland
Tier 4Bawdrip, Blackford, Catcott, Chedzoy, Chilton Polden, Cossington, North Newton, Othery, Shapwick, Weare/Lower Weare

Last reviewed: July 11, 2024 by Neil

Next review due: January 11, 2025

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