Head Office: 0800 048 8955

Homes development still serving the needs of rural community

A development of 14 affordable homes has helped to breathe new life into a South Staffordshire village since the first residents moved in just over a decade ago.

During Rural Housing Week, Housing Plus Group has been reflecting on the success of the development in Swindon, near Dudley, that has helped people with local connections remain in the area instead of being forced out by rising house prices.

The £1.36 million development in Himley Lane was the first rural exception site in South Staffordshire in more than 10 years when it was officially opened in 2011 by local MP Gavin Williamson.

The then recently elected politician, who went on to become a Cabinet Minister, was an enthusiastic backer of the scheme, along with local councillors who recognised the need to provide affordable homes to meet local needs.

Kerry Bolister, Director of development at Housing Plus Group, explained: “The need for these affordable homes was identified in a survey that found 23 people had recently moved away from the village because they couldn’t find or afford a suitable home. The research also highlighted a lack of homes for first-time buyers and for people with disabilities.”

The housing association worked with architects and the local authority’s conservation officer to develop new homes that blended in with the surrounding rural environment while meeting the housing needs of the local community.

As a result, two-bedroomed houses were modelled on traditional local barn conversions, and a pair of semi-detached houses on the façade of the village pub.

As the first residents moved into the development, now known as Pastures View, Mr Williamson described them as “Some of the nicest affordable homes I have seen.”

“The need for the new homes, and their desirability were reflected by the fact we received 83 applications for the 14 homes available,” Kerry said.

“In Rural Housing Week we are highlighting the vital role that affordable housing plays in sustaining thriving villages. We know that these homes improve the lives of individuals and families as well as helping villages to thrive. Young families are able to stay local and new residents support the village schools, shops and businesses that create such a strong sense of community.”

Some 12 years on, Pastures View is as popular as ever, and still meeting the needs of the local community, as one resident, Kelli explains: I’m a care manager, helping people with mental health issues and disabilities. I work full-time and I’m studying for a management qualification in social care. I’m also a single mum with two daughters aged 12 and nine.

“I used to have a housing association flat in Kinver. My eldest daughter struggled in a flat though, so when I had the opportunity to apply for a house I took it, moving first to another house in this village and eventually to one of these newly-built homes.

“Both my girls went to the village primary school and my younger daughter is still there. We use the local shop and visit the village pub.

“We love our beautiful village home and our garden. It wasn’t long after we moved in that I was asked to show the government’s housing secretary around my home. I think there should be more social housing.”

Leader of South Staffordshire Council, Cllr Roger Lees, explained that the development was the culmination of two years of discussion after Swindon Parish Council identified the need for affordable housing in the area.

There was a selection of potential sites, and the necessary public consultation was carried out to ensure that the need was properly demonstrated and supported by the community.

Cllr Lees explained: “The planning application for the development generated a very large number of responses, with 117 letters of objection and 10 electors requested a Parish Poll. This took place and resulted in 137 votes for ‘yes’ and 99 for ‘no’.

“The scheme comprises 14 affordable dwellings. Two are two-bedroom ‘lifetime home’ bungalows and six are two-bedroom houses solely for rent. There are also three two-bedroom houses for shared ownership and the remaining three, are three-bedroom houses for rent to meet lifetime home standards.

“Renewable energy sources were incorporated into the design, such as solar roof panels. The applicants also entered into a legal agreement to ensure that affordable housing was secured in line with local connections.”

Cllr Lees says the properties have provided much needed homes for families in the village. He added: “The scheme has been occupied by people with local connections, allowing families with a local connection to live in a picturesque environment and making the village more sustainable for the ageing population to stay in the village.”

Housing Plus Group has delivered 271 rural housing units over the last five years and are currently developing three rural exception sites in Shop Lane, Oaken, Mount Close, Pontesbury and Ruyton Road, Baschurch.

Chief executive Sarah Boden said: “There are very real social benefits to providing affordable homes in rural communities, where it can be so difficult to find a private rental property or even to consider home ownership. The key workers that we all depend upon, can live near their workplace and families can put down roots which help to secure a future for our towns and villages.”