6. HOUSING DEVELOPMENTS

6.1.

Recent Government policy statements have emphasised the importance it attaches to creating mixed and inclusive communities, including through a better mix of housing – in terms of size, type and affordability.

6.2.

Key references are PPG3: Housing, the Communities Plan and, in respect of affordable housing, Circular 6/98. Regard is also had to recent draft guidance that will replace the Circular and the detailed references to affordable housing in PPG3. RPG9 and Structure Plan policies also strongly promote a wider choice and availability of housing.

6.3.

This Plan includes policies that accord with these strategic expectations and reflect the local priority to improve the quality, range, and affordability of housing, as expressed by the Local Strategic Partnership and the Council itself.

6.4.

Affordable housing

Government guidance, notably PPG3: Housing, makes clear that the planning system and local plans specifically have an important part to play in providing affordable housing. Plans should seek a proportion of affordable housing in suitable developments where a local need has been demonstrated, and allow for affordable housing schemes as “exceptions” to normal planning policies in appropriate circumstances.

6.5.

Affordable housing is regarded as that which is provided for local people (or key workers) who are unable to meet their housing needs in the housing market without a level of subsidy because to do so would require more than 25-30% of their net household income.

6.6.

Housing Needs Surveys of Rother District have been undertaken in 2001 and in 2005 in order to better understand the housing requirements of local people. The findings of both surveys were statistically robust. The 2001 Survey identified an expressed need from existing and concealed households for 200 affordable units a year from all sources over a 5-year period. The 2005 Survey confirmed this scale of need, revealing a net annual need for 256 units up to 2011.

6.7.

Such clear evidence of a substantial number of people living in the District who cannot, or could not, afford to purchase a house on the open market is of major concern. It impacts on the ability to maintain family and social networks and an adequate workforce. It encourages longer distance commuting.

6.8.

It is considered that the target proportion of affordable housing sought as part of qualifying residential developments, including where part of mixed-use schemes, should be set at 40% in both towns and villages. These percentages reflect the high level of affordable housing need, the widespread support for addressing it expressed by local people, the Council’s Housing Strategy and its priority in the Council’s corporate policy.

6.9.

Affordable housing provision at a rate below 40% will only be acceptable if to meet the 40% requirement would render the development of the whole site uneconomic. In such circumstances, applicants will be required to provide clear evidence that the development of the site would be unviable, including by the submission of financial information as necessary. These provisions apply to housing sites allocated in this Plan as well as to housing developments elsewhere in the Local Plan area for which planning permission is sought.

6.10.

It is considered that the threshold for the provision of affordable housing should be 15 dwellings in the towns and 5 dwellings in the villages, or their equivalent site areas. The urban threshold is consistent with the most recent Government advice, while the rural threshold also has regard to the generally smaller size of sites that come forward and which, collectively, can make a worthwhile contribution towards affordable housing needs.

6.11.

Given the above policies, as well as the overall scale of housing in the District up to 2011 and housing market and economic conditions, it is considered that an appropriate target for affordable housing through the planning system should be 450 homes between 2004 and 2011. This figure is based on a minimum density of development on many allocated sites of 30 dwellings per ha and also assumes that the pattern of windfall sites coming forward will mirror that of previous years. Those affordable dwellings resulting from existing commitments and from the exception sites policy would be in addition to this figure.

6.12.

The Council supports the Government’s presumption that affordable housing should form part of the proposed development of a site. A financial contribution to off-site provision in lieu of on-site provision will only be acceptable where the proponent demonstrates that there is a genuine and insurmountable obstacle to satisfactory provision on site and where off-site provision will result in at least as great a contribution to meeting local needs. In this context, regard should be had to the amount of affordable housing to be achieved as a percentage of the overall housing numbers both on- and off-site.

6.13.

The Council’s Housing Services Division will advise on the types of affordable housing that are needed on a particular site at the appropriate time. This will be informed by the Housing Register and homelessness statistics, as well as the Survey findings. This will include a proportion of small unit accommodation, including flats, for young people and the elderly, as well as family homes.

6.14.

The policy does not specify the tenure of affordable housing, as this will need to take account of the circumstances of individual locations and development proposals. However, it should primarily consist of housing for rent, typically managed by a Registered Social Landlord (and in all circumstances with the prior approval of Rother District Council) since this is the only option available to a large proportion of people identified as being in greatest housing need. An element of shared equity housing (normally also provided by a Registered Social Landlord and always with the prior approval of Rother District Council), and other ‘intermediate’ forms of housing such as sub-market renting, low- cost home ownership, and shared ownership may be considered but must be accessible to people whose low household incomes prevent them from competing in the open housing market. These should be targeted at key workers and to assist other local people’s aspirations to “get on to the housing ladder”.

6.15.

A Supplementary planning document will be produced to elaborate on the delivery of affordable housing.

POLICY HG1 View Map of this site ?

On housing or mixed-use development sites of 0.5 hectares or more or housing developments of 15 or more dwellings, within the development boundaries of the towns of Bexhill, Battle and Rye, 40% of the total number of dwellings to be provided shall be affordable housing for local people.

On housing or mixed-use development sites within the development boundaries of villages of 0.2 hectares or more, or housing developments of 5 or more dwellings, 40% of the total number of dwellings to be provided shall be affordable housing for local people.

Affordable housing provision below 40% of the total number of dwellings will only be accepted where the applicant fully and financially demonstrates that 40% provision will make the development of the whole site uneconomic based on the current housing market and all the costs of the development.

POLICY HG2 View Map of this site ?

In exceptional circumstances, planning permission may be granted for residential development outside development boundaries in order to meet a local housing need among those people unable to compete in the normal housing market.

Proposals for development will be considered in the context of the following:

  1. There should be clear evidence of an unsatisfied housing need in the town/village or parish that cannot be met through normal market mechanisms;
  2. The proposed development should be of a size, cost and type appropriate to those people in local housing need established in (i) above;
  3. Any proposal should ensure that occupation can be controlled through appropriate legal agreements to meet the local housing needs of those people unable to compete in the normal housing market in the town/village or parish both now and in the future;
  4. The proposed development should be well located within or adjacent to an existing settlement and be of an appropriate scale and character in keeping with existing development in the locality and normally provide good access to local facilities, e.g. shops and schools;
  5. The proposed development should not be intrusive in the landscape and should be in keeping with the character of the surrounding development and locality;
  6. The proposed development should meet normal local planning and highway authority criteria for access, parking, retention of trees, landscaping and impact on neighbouring properties;
  7. A legal agreement will be required to secure the above objectives.   
6.16.

Housing mix

A notable finding of the Housing Needs Survey is the high proportion of respondents who need only 1 or 2 bedrooms, which is consistent with the high proportion stating a preference for a flat.

6.17.

This apparent need for smaller homes starkly contrasts with the general desire of housebuilders to build larger ‘executive’ properties. In view of these circumstances, together with Government encouragement to deliver a better mix of housing, it is considered appropriate to have a specific policy that seeks to ensure a mix of housing types and sizes in new developments irrespective of tenure and affordability.

6.18.

The appropriate proportion will vary depending on individual circumstances, but a minimum of 30% of all houses and flats is justified by the housing needs assessment and would contribute to balanced communities.

6.19.

The Housing Needs Survey illustrated a local need for housing for people with special needs, especially people with disabilities and the frail elderly. This can be expected to increase as the number of people over 85 years old is forecast to increase by 13% up to 2011. The quantification of the housing needs of these and other groups, including the need for market housing, and its distribution across the District, will be the subject of a more comprehensive Local Housing Assessment that will inform the Plan Monitor and Manage process for housing provision and the preparation of the forthcoming Local Development Framework. In the meantime the inclusion of smaller units in most housing developments in accordance with Policy HG3 would help to meet the need of the elderly as well as other small households. However the need for further provision of sheltered housing for people with special needs is likely to be identified by the Assessment. Whilst some provision can be expected on windfall sites, it will also be encouraged on allocated housing sites in the towns and villages where a need exists and the sites are suitable having regard to considerations of design, layout and accessibility to services and facilities.

POLICY HG3 View Map of this site ?

New housing developments should provide a mix of housing types and sizes, with at least 30% one and two bedroom dwellings in schemes above the thresholds in Policy HG1, unless a local housing needs assessment indicates that this is not appropriate.

6.20.

Layout and design

In planning new residential developments, it is important to appreciate that they will provide the living environments for people for decades to come. The Council is committed to creating attractive high quality living environments in which people choose to live and better respect local distinctiveness.

6.21.

A common criticism of many housing developments is that they have tended to pay little regard to their context, in favour of a more standardised “product”. The result is that housing estates are much the same everywhere. The larger size of dwellings and a limited mix of house types have been contributory factors, as have suburbanising highway design standards.

6.22.

Government and other guidance now recognises the importance of respecting local building traditions, street patterns and building forms when planning new development. They also promote a more efficient use of land, mixed use developments, community facilities, public transport, pedestrian and cycle links, sensitive layout and design and better green spaces. It is vital to highlight and require full regard to such local layout and design references, especially if new development is to be sympathetically assimilated into villages.

6.23.

Attention is drawn to the following documents that provide useful guidelines for the layout and design of new development: Better Places to Live (DTLR, 2001) ‘Places, Streets and Movement’ (DETR, 2001), ‘By Design’ (DETR/CABE, 2001) and the ‘Urban Design Compendium’ (EP/HC, 2000).

6.24.

In order to encourage high quality residential environments in areas proposed for housing development, developers will be expected to submit a design statement in respect of new housing developments, in line with the provisions of PPG3. Generally applicable development control criteria that impact on layout and design are put forward in Section 5.

POLICY HG4 View Map of this site ?

New housing developments will be permitted where their layout and design provides sustainable residential environments, including by demonstrating the following principles:

  1. creation of a strong sense of place that relates well to the existing street pattern;
  2. provision of linkages to existing development, especially to local services;
  3. priority to pedestrians in highway design and ready access to bus services;
  4. respect for the context of the development including, where appropriate, for local vernacular building designs, styles, traditional forms of construction and materials;
  5. provision of new community facilities appropriate to securing sustainable development, wherever practicable, and with good links to the areas they serve;
  6. subject to any over-riding environmental considerations, making best use of land by achieving an overall net density of at least 30 dwellings per hectare, with higher densities in locations more accessible to frequent public transport routes and a range of local facilities;
  7. a strong landscape framework formulated at the outset, making best use of existing landscape features;
  8. in larger housing developments, a layout that is both coherent and creates identifiable individual housing areas by making good use of trees and hedgerows, open spaces, natural features, road networks, dwelling layouts and design;
  9. suitable provision is made for public open space, including play space in accordance with Policy CF4;
  10. the visual and amenity impact of parked cars is minimised, while still providing adequate provision in accordance with Policy TR3;
  11. informal surveillance of open areas and transport corridors is encouraged.
6.25.

Residential mobile homes

Many existing residential mobile homes provide a valuable source of affordable housing which should not be diminished by their replacement with permanent dwellings. However, in general, new residential caravan sites and mobile homes would not be in keeping with the environment of the District. Their form and appearance are incompatible with the character of rural areas, especially the countryside of the High Weald, and they constitute inappropriate, sporadic and unsustainable development. New development for this purpose will thus usually be unacceptable unless it would significantly improve the appearance of an existing mobile home site and would otherwise accord with Plan policies including Policy GD1. The Plan seeks to ensure that housing needs are met by the construction of permanent dwellings.

6.26.

A specific exception to this is where such accommodation is essential in association with the running of a farm, woodland or other rural enterprise, in accordance with PPG7 and Policy HG10. On sites within development boundaries, residential mobile homes will be treated on their merits against the relevant planning criteria in Policy GD1.

POLICY HG5 View Map of this site ?

Within development boundaries, proposals for residential mobile homes will be considered on their merits against the other policies set out in the Plan.

Outside development boundaries, additional residential mobile homes will not be permitted unless the development would accord with Policies HG6 or HG10 or would result in a significant improvement in the appearance of an existing mobile home site and otherwise meets the policies of the Plan.

The replacement of existing residential mobile homes by permanent dwellings will not be permitted unless the mobile home was provided outside a development boundary on a temporary trial basis under Policy HG10 (iii) and the proposed permanent replacement would satisfy the same policy criterion.

6.27.

Sites for gypsies and travelling showpeople

Government advice, in Circular 1/94: Gypsy Sites and Planning, states that the planning system should recognise the need for accommodation consistent with the nomadic lifestyle of gypsies. There is a small flow of gypsies through the District and the Council considers that sufficient sites have been provided to meet the needs of gypsy families. In the absence of a clearly identified local demand, it is considered most appropriate to set out a criteria-based policy against which any future proposals by gypsies seeking suitable sites for accommodation can be considered.

6.28.

Similar considerations apply in respect of sites for travelling showpeople, for which Government advice is contained in Circular 22/9. Although their work is of a nomadic nature, showpeople nevertheless require secure, permanent bases for the storage of their equipment and more particularly for residential purposes. In Rother, there are no recorded bases, or "winter quarters" as they are generally known. There is no particular known requirement for such provision, it is considered to provide a criteriabased policy framework in line with government guidance.

POLICY HG6 View Map of this site ?

Proposals for new gypsy sites, extensions to existing gypsy sites and sites for travelling showpeople will be permitted provided the following criteria are met:

  1. There is no adverse impact on the character of the countryside, particularly in the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty;
  2. The local environment and residential amenities will not be adversely affected;
  3. There is a satisfactory means of vehicular access and the local road network is adequate;
  4. The site is conveniently located in relation to schools and other community facilities.
6.29.

Retention of housing stock

The Council is keen to maintain the existing stock of housing, particularly housing suitable for single family use. This is consistent with the Government objective of making best use of existing land and buildings and can contribute to social inclusion.

6.30.

While there is sometimes potential to satisfactorily redevelop existing housing sites within development boundaries to make better use of urban land, in accordance with other policies (notably HG1 and HG4), the loss of housing is generally to be resisted unless there are wider benefits.

POLICY HG7 View Map of this site ?

The loss of residential accommodation will be resisted (by change from another use or by redevelopment) unless there are special circumstances, namely:-

  1. that the residential use is not appropriately located;
  2. that the building is unsuitable for residential use in its present form and is not capable of being readily improved or altered in order to make it suitable; or
  3. that the retention of the building or use for residential purposes would prevent an important development, redevelopment or other change of greater benefit to the community.
6.31.

Extensions to dwellings

Extensions and alterations to existing houses, including ancillary buildings, generally represent an effective means of maintaining, improving and increasing the housing stock, as well as enabling residents to better meet their housing needs without moving. Such proposals represent a major source of applications for planning permission.

6.32.

Many of the considerations applicable to all developments, set out at Policy GD1, are applicable to extensions, but a specific policy that highlights the main issues is considered appropriate. The main thrust of this is to ensure that extensions do not dominate the existing dwelling but, rather, are “visually subservient” to it and hence add to, and not detract from, its character and appearance.

6.33.

In addition, in rural locations, there is a danger that unsympathetic extensions, individually and cumulatively, can erode the rural scene, either by changing the character of historic or vernacular buildings or by their visual impact on the wider countryside setting.

POLICY HG8 View Map of this site ?

Proposals to extend or alter an existing dwelling will be permitted where they are in keeping with the character of the existing dwelling and its surroundings in terms of its size, style, design and materials, as well as protecting the amenities of adjoining properties and meet other criteria in Policy GD1.

In countryside locations, particular care will be given to ensure that the extension or alteration is not intrusive in the landscape, particularly in the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Extensions or alterations to properties that have previously been converted to residential use will only be permitted where it is demonstrated that they will not adversely affect its character or appearance as a rural building.

6.34.

Extensions to residential curtilages

Some householders and other property owners in Rother District, particularly in countryside locations, seek to extend their curtilage, typically to provide additional accommodation for storage space or simply to provide an enhanced garden area. Accordingly, a policy framework is considered necessary.

6.35.

While such extensions of residential curtilages can be acceptable, the prime objective in rural areas is to conserve the character of the countryside. This is in fact a statutory objective in the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and, generally, the countryside is valuable for its own sake. The erosion of countryside character, albeit incremental, and the potential suburbanising effect caused by the enlargement of residential curtilages should be avoided.

POLICY HG9 View Map of this site ?

Extensions of the curtilages of existing dwellings in the countryside will not be permitted unless the extension:

  1. is modest in area, and the change of use and associated domestic paraphernalia does not harm the rural character of the area; and
  2. is to a natural boundary or is a logical rounding off.
6.36.

Dwellings in the countryside

As has been highlighted in Section 4, the countryside is a highly valued asset. Only very limited developments are consistent with maintaining its inherent qualities and character. Other policies provide for diversification of the rural economy to help maintain its sustainability.

6.37.

In relation to housing, the principle of resisting inappropriate and unnecessary development in the countryside means that this will not normally be acceptable outside development boundaries.

6.38.

The circumstances in which residential development will be allowed in the countryside will be very limited. The Structure Plan contains three exceptions - affordable housing for local needs, accommodation demonstrated to be essential to an enterprise necessarily in the countryside and the conversion of non-residential buildings which make a valuable contribution to the rural scene. In addition to these, it is the intention to allow the replacement of an existing dwelling with one of a comparable size and character.

6.39.

This policy should be applied sensitively and should not tend to the loss of traditional vernacular buildings, the retention of which is covered by Policy GD1, nor have a suburbanising effect on the character of the countryside.

POLICY HG10 View Map of this site ?

Proposals for new dwellings in the countryside will be refused unless it:

  1. is for the replacement of an existing dwelling on a one for one basis, subject to meeting the criteria at Policy GD1, the replacement dwelling being within the same curtilage and of a comparable size; exceptionally, a somewhat larger dwelling may be acceptable where it would be more in keeping with the character of the locality in terms of its siting, design and materials;
  2. is the conversion (without the need for substantial rebuilding) of a building in accordance with Policy HG11;
  3. can be demonstrated by the applicant to be essential for the running of an enterprise which must be in a countryside location and is of an appropriate size and directly related to the enterprise; or
  4. is housing for local people unable to compete in the local housing market, subject to the criteria in Policy HG2 bove;
  5. is the conversion or sub-division of an existing larger property where it is the only effective means of reusing it and meets the criteria in Policy GD1.
6.40.

Proposals under (iii) above, including for temporary accommodation, will also be considered having regard to Government policies in PPS7: Sustainable Development in Rural Areas. Extensions and alterations to dwellings in the countryside, including ancillary buildings, will be considered in relation to Policy HG8 above.

6.41.

There is a preference for employment, tourism or recreational re-use of buildings in the countryside over residential re-use. This is to benefit rural economic and community activity and because of the potential for residential conversions to harm the fabric and character of historic buildings. However exceptions may be justified including where employment or tourism re-use cannot be secured. Further guidance will be set out in a Supplementary Planning Document. Traditional farm buildings raise particular difficulties and care is needed if their simple vernacular appearance is not to be adversely affected by unsympathetic conversion proposals. In addition to meeting the policy criteria set out in Policy EM3, proposals for conversion to residential use will be expected to be in accordance with the following policy.

POLICY HG11 View Map of this site ?

Residential re-use and adaptation of buildings in the countryside will not be permitted unless:-

  1. the building makes a valuable contribution to the rural scene and residential re-use is the only means of retaining it. The applicant should demonstrate that every attempt has been made to secure suitable employment or tourism re-use unless such a use would be inappropriate in that location; or
  2. residential re-use and adaptation is demonstrated to be an essential part of a scheme for business re-use which must be in a countryside location and the residential element of the scheme must be of an appropriate size and directly related to the enterprise; and
  3. in either case, it does not involve the creation of a residential curtilage harmful to the character of the building or the extension of the building or the addition of new buildings. Any permission will be subject to conditions requiring strict adherence to the deposited proposals, landscaping and the removal of permitted development rights for alterations, extensions and buildings within the curtilage.

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