Landowners behind the North East’s largest rural estates should be called upon to release land for affordable housing, according to RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors).
The organisation’s new Rural Policy Paper sets out a number of recommendations as to how central and local Government could better manage rural land and support countryside communities.
The options include offering measures to encourage large landowners to release space on their estates for eight or more affordable houses.
This could include partial inheritance tax exemptions, allowing heirs to avoid paying taxes on any affordable properties within the estate.
Jeremy Blackburn, head of policy at RICS, said: “Affordable rural housing is fast becoming a thing of the past. There is a reported 76% shortfall in rural affordable housing.
“If our rural towns and villages are to thrive, we need to take action to ensure that workers are available to drive local economies.”
He added that there were some countryside communities in which the average cost of a house can outstrip average annual wages 11 times over.
“Rural poverty is a serious issue that threatens to hamper regional growth,” he said.
“We would like to see local authorities work sympathetically with estate owners to encourage the release of land for eight or more affordable houses, based on long leaseholds, which would allow estates to retain long-term interests.”
To further boost rural economies, RICS is calling on Government to extend the current devolution agenda to market towns.
Before its closure, the Commission for Rural Communities reported that the English countryside had the economic potential of the eight Core Cities minus London, and that its businesses had survived the recession better than their urban counterparts.
It also cited the importance of market towns as economic engines behind this situation.
Chairman of the RICS North East land group and partner at Addisons Chartered Surveyors, David Coulson, said: “Market towns are the focus of much economic and service activity in rural areas, particularly in the North East, but they can be overlooked in terms of their role and potential.
“There are approximately 1,600 small and market towns in England, where 22% of the population live.
“RICS is right to urge Government to extend the current devolution agenda beyond our big cities to market towns.
“A new generation of enterprise zones that can be made appropriate for land based businesses is a welcome first step; an urban only devolution agenda is short-sighted and ignores the major contributor that is our rural economy.”