When local families were priced out of buying houses in their home village of Swindon, we had a great solution that would keep the village thriving.
We recognised that villages across South Staffordshire lacked affordable housing and so SSHA took the unique step of employing their own Rural Housing enabler to work in partnership with Parish Councils to identify housing need and deliver local schemes. One of the Parishes who were engaged early on was Swindon.
Swindon lies within a greenbelt, which means building any new property is almost out of the question. But if we could prove that the area needed affordable housing for local people it could be granted a Rural Exception Site status and we could have the opportunity to build new affordable homes.
We enlisted the help of the Rural Housing Enabler, who independently conducted a Housing Needs Survey to establish whether there was a genuine need for more housing. By working closely with the community, the Rural Housing Enabler revealed 20 households had experienced families moving away already due to lack of affordable housing. Our Survey identified the need for 10 rented and four shared ownership homes allowing first time buyers into the market.
Grant Mitchell, Housing Strategy and Regeneration Manager said, “We worked hard to get the message out that this was a project to benefit local families and was not part of a wider plan to concrete over the village’s natural beauty.”
Ursula Bennion, Group Business Development Director said, “We’ve worked closely with the Conservation Officer and it’s going to look great. Inspired by the best of local architecture and other rural influences this will be a showcase scheme. Hopefully it’ll change perceptions of affordable housing.”
Swindon Parish Council was also pivotal to the success of the development. They provided constant communication with local residents. Their Chairman, Councillor Roger Lees, comments, “The Parish Council has been working with planners to reduce the effect that any small development would have on the village. This will help the sustainability of village services and will be legally enshrined in perpetuity for local residents.”
The great relationships we’ve built and the strong collaborations made this development possible. Grant Mitchell, explains why he enjoys working with us, “SSHA has a proven track record in working in our communities and delivering tangible improvements which is why we were keen to support them. They are an organisation we work closely with as we trust them to deliver, and they do.”
This development is a great success for us and local communities. By its nature, building on a greenbelt is usually avoided. As a result villages go without new property, the young leave and the areas struggle. It’s a triumph we are proud of. We are now identifying small development areas to be designated as Rural Exception Sites within five more Parishes. Hopefully we’ll keep our villages alive and kicking for many generations to come by providing affordable housing for local people that is designed to the highest standards.