Hambledon Parish Council hosted a visit by 20 civil servants from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government who arrived in the village to look at the Orchard Farm affordable homes project.
The officials are part of the government’s housing team with responsibility for affordable housing strategy. They left their offices in Whitehall to see three schemes being run by English Rural Housing in the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, in Hambledon, Dunsfold and Chiddingfold.
These picturesque villages, in beautiful countryside and with good schools and transport links, are highly desirable and, consequently, house prices are high – on average 34 per cent more expensive than in surrounding areas and almost 23 times the average household income, according to recent figures published by English Rural.
This means that many local people struggle to afford to get onto the housing ladder. English Rural, a housing association whose patron is The Princess Royal, works with local councils and communities to provide homes at lower than market rent or part-ownership in rural areas.
In Hambledon it built Duncombs Cottages on Hambledon Road, Hydestile, which were opened by HRH Princess Anne in 2003. Now it is working with Waverley Borough Council and Hambledon Parish Council to build seven affordable homes and two open market bungalows at Orchard Farm, a disused livery yard between Wormley Lane and Petworth Road.
The civil servants were escorted by officials of English Rural and, in Hambledon, were met by parish council chairman John Anderson and vice chairman Stewart Payne, who explained the background to the scheme, the pitfalls along the way, and the overall support of the village for a small development of affordable homes for local people.
Work has yet to start on the site, so the civil servants were shown the empty farmhouse, which is to be renovated and sold on the open market, and the abandoned buildings that will make way for the new homes.
Nick Hughes, who is leading the scheme on behalf of English Rural, showed plans and drawings and explained the various issues that the scheme encountered before finally being approved by Waverley Council in November last year.
The visit, which took place on January 29th, was welcomed by John Anderson as an opportunity to explain the many difficulties that the parish council faced in helping to deliver a scheme that most villagers had welcomed, but some had opposed vociferously. Legitimate concerns by some residents had to be balanced against the benefits the scheme delivered.
Commenting on the visit, English Rural’s Chief Executive, Martin Collett, said he was pleased “to welcome representatives from the Ministry of Housing to show the affordable homes we have built and are developing in the villages of Hambledon, Dunsfold and Chiddingfold.
He said the visit focused on how parish councils and local; authorities can work effectively with rural housing associations to form strong partnerships that ultimately benefit local residents. “This has a positive impact on their own circumstances and the wider community”, he said. More information can be found here: https://englishrural.org.uk/ministry-of-housing-team-view-affordable-rural-homes-in-surrey/