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Changes needed to affordable rural housing policy in Wales, research finds

10 January 2019

A policy which allows for the building of affordable homes on rural land outside village boundaries is not working effectively in Wales, research commissioned by the Royal Town Planning Institute in Wales (RTPI Cymru) has found.

The small areas of land on which the homes are built – known as Rural Exception Sites – would not normally get planning permission for housing.

Although these sites are seen as an important tool in the delivery of local needs affordable housing, the research found that their delivery in Wales remains limited.

Director of RTPI Cymru Roisin Willmott said: “There is a real housing need across Wales, particularly in the delivery of affordable housing. The Welsh Government have identified the need to build 20,000 new affordable homes and rural areas face particular problems in delivering affordable housing. 

“This research recommends a number of ways to make Rural Exception Site policy more effective in achieving this aim, including supporting and expanding the surveys used to identify current and future community housing need.

“The research also recommends a rural affordable housing ‘toolkit’ that explains rural exception site processes, engagement and links to other affordable housing tools and options.”

The research suggests that Local Planning Authorities in Wales could become more flexible in how they use such sites by, for example:

  • removing restrictions on the type of housing provider that can develop
  • removing the limit on the number of houses that can be built
  • removing the requirement that only residential homes can be built

The report also concluded that the role of non-affordable housing in enabling the viability of Rural Exception Sites should be explored further. However, it recommends caution, with a maximum cap on non-affordable housing of 25% and only to a maximum level that allows the development to take place. There must also be a limit on the land area that can be used for non-affordable housing, a minimum absolute number of affordable housing units, and a requirement that affordable housing should be developed concurrently.

Roisin Willmott said: “We certainly welcome the report. It provides a robust platform in evaluating how the current policy can be used and indicators of how it could be developed further, without undermining the Local Development Plan.”


This research was commissioned by the Royal Town Planning Institute in Wales (RTPI Cymru) and carried out by a team of researchers - Brian Webb, Neil Harris and Robert Smith from Cardiff University, School of Geography and Planning. The executive summary and full report can be found on the RTPI Cymru website /the-rtpi-near-you/rtpi-cymru/policy-in-wales/wales-planning-research-agenda/