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Monday, May 01, 2006
Rural issues news
Interesting stuff came out last week about some rural stuff. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation published a report on why affordable housing in rural areas is in such critically short supply.

The report notes that house building levels have dropped by four per cent in the past three years, compared to a 19 per cent rise in urban areas, and that right to buy sales have cut the number of rented homes by 36 per cent since 1980 in rural communities. New affordable housing in rural areas now stands at just six per cent of total new stock compared with 16 per cent in urban districts. But in contrast to recent stuff coming out from the Tory party, the authors suggest that the way to solve this is through better use of empty properties, under-used farm building conversions and many other small measures. Very much in tune with what the JRF generally suggests, I think these are sensible measures but perhaps the scale of the issue, combined with other factors about the increase in demand for the rural lifestyle, might warrant a more radical approach. Not that I'm with the Tories, mind you.

Meanwhile second home ownership continues to rise, with the South-West leading the way. The region has a quite astonishing 21.3% of total housing as second homes. Interestingly, London comes in second - evidently a lot of people have pied-a-terres, or for tax reasons are declaring their city properties as their second homes.

And in environmental news, DEFRA have announced new measures to encourage the use of biomass. But typically, they are pretty weak really and I don't think will make a real difference to scaling up this most sustainable and easy-to-access energy resource which might also be able to really kick-start the agricultural economy now that the death-knell for CAP-supported wheatfields has sounded. DEFRA also announced the board of Natural England, the agency set to replace English Nature and bits of the Countryside Agency in October.

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