Local councils ‘ignore’ building affordable homes on farmland

New data shows that of a 9% increase in affordable homes built in small rural communities across England, only 51 more than the previous year were built on rural exception sites.


Local councils are continuing to ignore ways to deliver much needed affordable homes for local people across the countryside, says the CLA.

New government data shows that despite a 9% increase in affordable homes built in small rural communities across England, only 51 more than the previous year were built on rural exception sites – farmland not usually granted  planning permission but used for affordable housing developments.

The CLA which represents landowners, farmers and rural businesses welcomed the overall increase but said local councils across England could use these sites more effectively to help  solve the rural housing crisis.

CLA Housing Adviser Matthew O’Connell said: “Housing need is widespread throughout rural England. The increase in the total number of affordable homes being built is encouraging, however, large discrepancies between local authorities mean that certain councils are doing more than others.

“Cornwall Council leads the way yet again but others lag quite dramatically behind.

“Rural exception sites are a key means of providing affordable homes in rural areas where a landowner provides land at below market value to build affordable homes for local people. It is clear that local authorities are missing a trick by not using these sites to their full potential.

“We know that 27% of CLA members want to build affordable housing and many are keen to manage their own affordable properties.

“To harness this ambition, local councils and housing associations must engage with rural landowners to help bring more sites forward increasing the range of housing options for people in rural areas.

“Without challenging a few orthodoxies we are not going to solve the rural housing crisis.

“New build rented housing, affordable home ownership and affordable rented homes are all crucial to maintaining a living, working countryside.

“With the right support and incentives, rural landowners hold the key to easing the acute shortage of housing in the countryside.”

To help increase the supply of affordable homes across the countryside the CLA is calling on the Government to:

 Formalise the process for landowners to manage affordable homes

When a plot of land has been found for a rural exception site, but there is no housing association or other organisation to manage the site, it will not progress.

There are examples of landowners who have come to agreements with local authorities to manage the affordable homes themselves.

The CLA sees more sites coming forward if this process was formalised.

To the CLA, having a government approved boiler plate section 106 agreement would provide assurances to other landowners and local authorities that they could pursue this option.

Actions recommended by the CLA include:

  • Implement Housing White Paper proposals on rural exception sites

The Housing White Paper proposed to give stronger support for rural exception sites and the role they can play in providing affordable housing for the community, even if this relies on an element of general market housing.

CLA fully supports this proposal, emphasising that cross subsidy will result in more sites coming forward.

  • Exempt properties provided as affordable homes from liability for Inheritance Tax 

52% of CLA members would be more willing to build and manage affordable homes for rent for local people if the value of the housing was conditionally exempt from Inheritance Tax until the housing was sold on the open market.

  • Exempt the value of land sold for affordable homes from Capital Gains Tax

38% of CLA members would be more willing to sell land at a discount for affordable housing if the value of the land was exempt from Capital Gains Tax. 

A total of 4,079 affordable homes were built in 2016/17, 383 more than the previous year.

Total number of affordable homes built in settlements of 3,000 or less


2016/17 4,079
2015/16 3,696
2014/15 3,668
2013/14 3,688
2012/13 2,886




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