Ashwell Neighbourhood Plan Regulation 16 Submission

Ended on the 15 April 2021
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(2) 5 Housing

Housing requirement

5.1 A key objective of the Emerging Local Plan is to provide a range of housing developments across the district that delivers the target number of new homes, respects the scale of existing places and caters for the needs of all residents, including the delivery of a range of housing sizes and types including affordable housing. This last point is important because planning for development is not just about numbers: housing must also be of a type, size and tenure that meets local needs. There is a finite supply of land, so building that does not closely match needs will not only fail to address the issues we have now but will crowd out future development that might deal with them.

5.2 In the foreword to the June 2017 Institute for Public Policy Research report, 'What more can be done to build the homes we need?', Sir Michael Lyons said, "We would stress that it is not just the number built but also the balance of tenures and affordability which need to be thought through for an effective housing strategy."

5.3 The NPPF (2019) requires development to match local needs. In para 61 it says, "Within this context [i.e. the local housing need figure], the size, type and tenure of housing needed for different groups in the community should be assessed and reflected in planning policies (including, but not limited to, those who require affordable housing, families with children, older people, students, people with disabilities, service families, travellers, people who rent their homes and people wishing to commission or build their own homes)."

5.4 Policies SP2 and SP8 of the Emerging Local Plan set out a requirement for a minimum of 15,950 dwellings to be delivered across the entire district. Whilst the majority of this new housing is directed to the larger settlements, there is an expectation that all villages will contribute to the housing number, including through Neighbourhood Plans. The Emerging Local Plan allocates an estimated 33 new dwellings to Ashwell parish at land west of Claybush Road (Policy AS1) though, as stated above, permission has been granted for 30.

5.5 Figure 5.1 details the residential dwellings that are either complete or have received planning permission in Ashwell Parish between the notional start date of the Emerging Local Plan (2011) and December 2019.

New Housing in Ashwell 2011 – 2019



Planning ref


East Lodge, 22 Lucas Lane




Moules Yard extension




94 Ashwell Street




Broadchalke Close/40 Kingsland Way




Hodwell, land rear of 28 High Street




Old Stables, Mill Street




Land behind 18 Newnham Way




Whitby Farm, Silver Street




Philosophers Gate/61 Station Road




Shire End Close (turkey farm site)




Walkdens extension, Station Road




Chalk Bank Close (Cooke's engineering site)






Various additions including previously derelict/unoccupied brought back into use

48 Ashwell Street (adjacent Moules Yard)


15 High Street (Jessamine House)


35 High Street (Whitby Farm House)


22-24 Hodwell (Dove Cottages)


15 Kingsland Way (x1 house returned to x2)




17 High Street/former PO (plus new x1 bed flat)






Under construction in 2019

Lucas Lane (in front of Townsend House)






Planning permission granted but not yet progressed

Land east of 35 Ashwell Street




Land off Dixies Close/rear of 1-11 Back Street




Land adjacent no.2 Ashwell Street




Townsend Meadow, at the junction of Ashwell Street and Station Road




Land rear of 4-14 Claybush Road








Figure 5.1 Additions to Ashwell's housing stock 2011 to December 2019. Sources: NHDC Planning consents, local Parish records

5.6 The total number of dwellings that have been built, brought back into use, have planning permission or are allocated in the Emerging Local Plan is 116 units in the last decade.

5.7 To put the 116 units into context, this is the second highest number to be built in a 10 year period in Ashwell since 1945, exceeded only by the period 1971 to 1980 when 145 units were built. By comparison, in the 20 year period from 1991 to 2010 a total number of 74 units were built, as shown in Figure 5.2 .

5.8 NHDC considers that, on a strict pro-rata basis, Ashwell's contribution to the government's target for dwellings could be 200 homes using the 2011 population and household figures or around 170 - 180 using its latest data. Although these fluctuating estimates are greater than the 116 delivered to date, Ashwell has already delivered a greater proportion to the overall housing numbers when compared with other parts of the District.

During the period 2011 to 2019, housing stock in Ashwell grew by 9.2%, significantly greater than in North Hertfordshire as a whole where the increase was 8.3% .

In addition:

  • North Hertfordshire District Council's Emerging Local Plan policy SP2 states that most of the required development is to be focused on six towns and five villages (not including Ashwell) and only 9% would be outside these areas; Therefore calculating on a strict pro-rata basis is misleading.
  • The Emerging Local Plan's strategic allocation AS1 and the amendment to the settlement boundary it proposes has already delivered a fair share of new development.

5.9 Therefore, the ANP does not seek to allocate additional sites for development nor does it consider that the requirement to contribute to the District's five-year housing land supply should take priority over other policies in the case of planning decisions in Ashwell Parish.

Housing mix

5.10 At the parish level, the Ashwell Housing Survey, undertaken in 2015, provides further understanding about the views of the community on the types of housing that might be required to meet local needs. Whilst the survey clearly provides a 'snapshot' of views, the findings revealed that on the whole, the local community accepted the need for the village to grow slightly and that the following should be prioritised:

  • Older people: Providing for the needs of the ageing part of the community is becoming increasingly important. This is part of a significant national trend. The Local Government Association in its report 'Housing our Ageing Population' in September 2017 stated that, "Many retirees want to 'rightsize' and live-in retirement housing in later life, but there is a chronic under-supply of high quality, affordable or desirable accommodation in the right locations".
  • Affordable and low-cost housing: There is a real need for development that includes a mix of housing, with an emphasis on affordable and low-cost housing options both social and private.
  • Young people: Homes should be of the type that would bring young couples and families to the village and/or allow them to stay.

Second homes are considered to be unacceptable. Unfortunately, determining whether or not a development is for a second home is, like as not, impossible when an application is submitted. Therefore a policy that does not support second homes could not be applied and the ANP does not include one.

5.11 It could be argued that the Housing Survey 2015 represents the opinions of residents rather than being an objective assessment of the issues confronting the Parish. Appendix A 'A profile of Ashwell' looks at the situation using data published by the Census and the Office of National Statistics. To a significant extent, this data confirms the views expressed by respondents to the Housing Survey 2015 that compared with North Hertfordshire as a whole Ashwell has issues with accommodating older people, housing under-occupancy and affordability in its wider sense.

Older people

5.12 Providing for the needs of the older members of the community is becoming increasingly important, particularly in light of the ageing profile of the parish. Of those residents responding to the Housing Survey 2015, 32% said that they would like to downsize and move to a more manageable home. This was further evidenced by the high number of under-occupied homes in the parish, see Appendix A 'A profile of Ashwell' for the relevant data.

5.13 There were messages from the Housing Survey 2015 to the effect that new housing units should be equally suitable for both older residents and the young (singles, couples and new families). This would allow the older ones to downsize, freeing up property for growing families to 'move up the ladder' and enable younger people to get into the housing market in Ashwell.

These Parishioner responses revealed an awareness of the need for accommodation suited to the needs of older people. For the more able this would take the form of smaller units designed to make living for older people easier but should equally suit young occupants. Such accommodation should also follow good design principles for that age group and be sited on terrain that enables easy access to and from the dwellings. Proximity to the village centre is important as this is where facilities and services can most easily be accessed.

5.14 For the less able, who are likely to increase in number, there should be supported social housing with a range of tenure options. Although there is supported social housing at Wolverley House, these flats are for rent only and there is no guarantee that Ashwell residents would be given preference. Not all Ashwell residents would be eligible in any case. For instance, means testing prevents Ashwell residents who still own a home from gaining access. The Housing Survey 2015 indicated a need for this type of accommodation to be available for purchase and for private rental.

5.15 There is accommodation for older people on low income in six small housing units run by the Moss Cottages charity located in the centre of the village. The trust was primarily set up to provide single unit housing for single or widowed older people of the Parish of Ashwell. If there is a vacancy and no one qualifies from the Parish, then an older person (with preference for a widow) from outside the Parish and the district of North Hertfordshire may apply provided that the applicant has a family connection currently residing in Ashwell or that the applicant has previously lived in Ashwell.

Figure 5.3 Moss Cottages

5.16 To reflect the above factors and the evidence provided from the Housing Survey 2015, priority for future housing development in Ashwell should be given to applications providing housing that is suitable for older people. That is:

  • On sites geographically close to the central village amenities.
  • On sites that are reasonably flat and capable of providing safe and sustainable access for all to the central village amenities and access to local transport.
  • Comprising mostly one or two bedroom bungalows or low rise apartments (with lifts) that are suitable for older people or those with restricted mobility.
  • For sale or rent at a cost within the means of the average person seeking accommodation within the Parish. This does not just mean those meeting the eligibility criteria for affordable housing defined in the NPPF (2019) Appendix 2, but a wider category of individuals on median incomes or below.

5.17 Applications for supported accommodation up to the point that it meets local needs should be encouraged.

Affordable and low-cost housing

5.18 Affordable housing includes social rented, affordable rented and intermediate housing, which is provided to eligible households whose needs are not met by the market. Eligibility is determined with regard to local incomes and house prices.

5.19 There is a real need for development that includes a mix of housing, with an emphasis on affordable and low-cost housing options, both social and private in the parish, where average house prices are out of reach of many.

5.20 The ANP therefore seeks to increase the net number of affordable housing units available in the Parish. It supports the Emerging Local Plan strategic policy (SP8: Housing) that sets a target of 33% of all homes over the plan period to be Affordable Housing for local needs with targets to deliver up to 40% Affordable Housing where viable. The ANP supports the notion that affordable housing should be provided on the site of a proposed development and fully integrated with the market housing throughout the development. Affordable housing must be visually indistinguishable from the market housing.

Young people    

5.21 A relatively small proportion of those completing the Housing Survey 2015 answered the question about their children's intentions to find homes in Ashwell as, at any given moment, the majority of households are unlikely to have children looking for a home. Of those able to answer the question (32% of respondents), 59% did not consider this feasible on cost grounds and 19% did not think there was suitable property available.

5.22 Homes should be of the type that would bring young couples and families to the village and/or allow them to stay, which in turn may help to maintain local services and facilities.

5.23 Despite providing 'affordable' housing, the ANP recognises that younger people looking for accommodation in Ashwell will find it difficult to find something that is within their means. These people may not necessarily be eligible for affordable housing according to the NPPF definition but still need access to relatively low cost housing. The Parish wants to encourage this in order to re-balance its age profile and keep it a vibrant place to live.

5.24 Mortgage lenders' multiples of salary for couples taking out a mortgage typically range from four to six times earnings with the higher multiple only available to low risk applicants[3]. So a sensible multiple target for new home pricing could be at least five times average local earnings in the sub-40 year age group, assuming that buyers would contribute a 10% deposit.

5.25 Given this multiple, Figure 2.4 'Year-on-year average cost of housing...' of Appendix A shows that for housing to be accessible to people of average income, developments should be smaller units of up to three bedrooms that can be sold at prices well within the lower quartile of the market, or rented at comparable cost.

Self Build

5.26 The Self Build and Custom House Building Act 2015[4] requires NHDC to keep a register of individuals and associations of individuals who are seeking to acquire serviced plots of land within the District for Self Build and custom house building. The ANP seeks to meet this need by supporting development of this type on sites within the built-up area boundary.

Policy ASH2 Housing mix    


5.27 In the neighbourhood area there is a demand for a greater number of smaller one, two and three-bedroom dwellings at lower quartile cost (as indicated by ONS Housing datasets for the district of North Hertfordshire). The demand comes from single people, young couples, small families and older people who also need developments to be in suitable locations, close to public transport, the village centre and other amenities.

Therefore, planning applications should be for smaller dwellings (up to three bedrooms) at a cost or at a rent that is financially within the reach of these demographic categories.

Every planning application should include an explanation of how the development meets the housing needs of our parish, as defined in this section.

NHDC's rules relating to providing what is officially termed 'Affordable Housing' must be followed.

Full policy

(1) POLICY ASH2 Housing mix

  1.  Proposals should include a high proportion of one, two and three bedroom dwellings within the neighbourhood area for sale or rent within the lower quartile of local cost, and follow the standards defined in POLICY ASH4 Design of Development of the ANP.
  2.  Housing development must contribute to meeting the existing and future housing needs of the neighbourhood area. Developers of major developments are required to submit a neighbourhood area-specific Affordable Housing and Dwellings Mix Strategy with any planning application. The strategy must clearly set out identified housing needs within the neighbourhood area, accepting and taking account of Housing Survey 2015 conclusions or any future local survey that supersedes it (for example, a survey by Community Development Action Herts.). It must demonstrate how the proposed development addresses those needs. In particular it must show how it:
    1.  meets the needs of older residents (aged 60+) and younger people entering the housing market; and
    2.  helps to address housing under-occupancy in the Parish (e.g. by facilitating downsizing).
  3.  Residential development proposals in the neighbourhood area that provide affordable housing as required by policy H29A of the Saved Plan 1996, or its successor, will be supported. Applications that offer affordable housing substantially in excess of the ratios required in the Local Plan will be supported, in particular for small developments.
  4.  The type and size of affordable homes should meet the specific needs identified for the neighbourhood area.

Conformity reference: NP Objectives: 1; Saved Plan 1996: 29, 29A; Emerging Local Plan: SP8; NPPF (2019): 61, 62, 64

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