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Gloucestershire floods makes now "ideal" time to consider housing says the Princess Royal

By CCampbell  |  Posted: February 21, 2014

The Princess Royal at Pittville Pump Room, Cheltenham

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Damage caused by floods in the county makes now an "ideal moment" to think about the quality and number of houses in rural areas, the Princess Royal has said.

Her Royal Highness spoke at the Rural Housing National Conference 2014 in Cheltenham today.

Addressing housing association and National Trust representatives, social landlords and councillors at Pittville Pump Room, Princess Anne said an influx of "confidence" was needed for more affordable housing in the countryside.

"I am going to talk about the floods," she said. "Perhaps this is the ideal moment to think about the number of houses because those conditions do challenge us to build more appropriately. There is generally a real alternative here (in the type of homes built) but it needs to be locally led."

The seminar tackled challenges facing rural communities including county householders who have had to move due to a lack of suitable or affordable homes, particularly young people. The National Housing Federation believes 240,000 homes need to be built every year to meet demand in the country.

Her Royal Highness, Patron of the English Rural Housing Association, said there needed to be more affordable housing and better understanding of it to keep young people and families in rural areas and in work. Housebuilders should also be tackled over numerous supermarket plans.

She said: "Rural communities - keeping them alive. Part of that is people knowing each other and village assessment plays a good part in that. Do they (community people) need transport, work and are there jobs, is there space for people?

"If you had a shop, park, school, you need to be able to keep them.

"Our battle is to argue the toss with the big housebuilders, that there is value. That maybe it is good value if you build the facilities that go with building a community. We need the space to do that, that needs to be a part of our plan. It's about giving confidence to people that you can allow them to stay where they want to stay. 240,000 houses sounds an awful lot until we identify the amount of villages and market towns there are."

She added good quality broadband and mobile coverage as well as access to healthcare were essential for people in rural areas.

Citizens Advice Bureaus and other similar services were also vital to communities and it was important to keep carers in rural and village accommodation, she said.

Yesterday's conference was jointly organised by the Rural Services Network and Rural Housing Alliance. It marks a new partnership between the two groups.

The Princess was joined by speakers from the National Housing Federation, Chartered Institute of Housing and affordable rural housing providers.

Graham Biggs, chief executive of the Rural Services Network, said he was "delighted" with the new partnership. "The lack of affordable rural housing has been a longstanding concern across our membership and the opportunity to work with highly respected practitioners in this way is an opportunity to act on this."

Peter Moore, chairman of the Rural Housing Alliance, addressed the seminar. He said the attendance of Her Royal Highness at the event would help "inspire" delegates from across the country to help tackle the affordable housing crisis in the countryside.

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