House prices nightmare 'has already hit rural England'

Last updated at 15:54 13 June 2007

Forecasts that house prices will hit 10 times the average salary by 2026 are already a reality in many rural areas, a watchdog warned today.

Dr Stuart Burgess, chairman of the Commission for Rural Communities, said: "For rural England, the housing nightmare predicted at last week's launch of the National Housing and Planning Advice Unit has already come true.

"In some parts of the country, especially the National Parks and other hotspots, prices have risen to as much as 13 times average local earnings.

"Our research shows that only about 55 per cent of households can afford to buy housing on the open market in many rural towns and villages. In the South East that figure worsens to 30 per cent.

"To illustrate the problem, a recent survey of England's market towns showed that Helston (138 per cent) in Cornwall, and Pickering (128 per cent) and Selby (124 per cent) in North Yorkshire are among those having the biggest house price increases in the past five years.

"Bakewell (18 per cent) in Derbyshire has the second biggest house price increase among market towns over the past year and is the fifth most expensive market town in the country with an average house price of £305,975. Six of the 10 most expensive market towns were in the South East of England."

Turing to the work of the Affordable Rural Housing Commission, Dr Burgess said that while there was general support for its analysis of the situation in rural areas and recommendations for action, the crucial point was what has happened since.

"The results show that their report raised the profile of rural housing and there have been some positive steps forward nationally with the publication of new planning guidance.

"However, there is still much to do in planning, funding and the 'rural proofing' of housing policies, particularly at regional and local level."

Dr Burgess was speaking on the eve of the Commission for Rural Communities' Affordable Rural Housing Commission: One Year On conference to be held in the QEII conference centre in Westminster.

The preliminary results of its survey of progress made will be launched with a discussion about what more needs to be done.

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