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Cost of living support

Financial advice and emotional support on how you can ease the cost of living squeeze.

Affordable rural housing

Providing affordable housing in rural areas helps support family and social networks and the well as the sustainability of the local economy.

A small bespoke scheme of affordable homes on a suitable site can breathe fresh life into rural villages and ensure local people can stay in their community, whatever their age or circumstances. At the same time these homes can help to sustain local services such as shops, schools and pubs.

Due in part to its proximity to London and Cambridge, many younger people cannot afford to live in the rural parishes they grew up in and have had to move away. The older generation are also finding it increasingly difficult to downsize and stay locally near family and support networks.

We use the rural exception site policy to provide affordable housing where there is a local need.

Rural exception sites

Schemes are typically small scale and developed on rural exception sites which allow affordable housing to be safeguarded as affordable and prioritised in perpetuity for local people. The size and tenure of the homes delivered on these sites are bespoke to the needs of the parish in which they are situated.

We allocate affordable homes developed on rural exception sites differently to homes built through usual planning policies. For rural exception sites we:

  • give higher priority to applicants who can demonstrate a strong local connection to the area
  • define local connection to an area in the legally binding Section 106 Agreement for each individual scheme

Affordable housing on exception sites

As a consequence of the scale of affordable housing needs and the need to retain mixed and balanced communities, the council will also exceptionally release suitable land in rural areas for local needs housing that would not otherwise normally receive planning permission.

We will allow the development of affordable housing will be permitted outside settlements on a site where housing would not otherwise normally be permitted, if it meets all the following criteria that the:

  • development will meet a local need that cannot be met in any other way, as demonstrated by an up to date housing needs survey prepared within the last 3 years;
  • development is of a scale appropriate to the size and facilities; of the settlement; and
  • site adjoins the settlement


Local connection criteria

The local connection criteria for rural exception sites will be as follows and in the following order of priority:

  1. Persons who have been permanently resident in the specified parish for at least two years
  2. Persons who are no longer resident in the specified parish but who have been resident for at least three years during the past five years
  3. Persons who meet either of the following criteria:
    • in permanent employment in the specified parish for a minimum of 2 years and working at least 24 hours per week
    • having close relatives (i.e. parents, grandparents, children, brother or sister) living in the specified parish or parishes who have lived there for at least five years
  4. If there are no persons meeting the criteria in 1 to 3 then the cascade above will be applied to any neighbouring parishes identified in relevant clauses in the planning agreement
  5. In the event that it is still not possible to allocate a property to applicants who meet criteria 1 to 4 above then the property may be allocated to applicants who meet the local connection requirements who will under-occupy the property, providing that the under-occupancy created does not exceed one bedroom
  6. In the event that it is still not possible to allocate a property to applicants who meet criteria 1 to 5 above then the property may be allocated to applicants who meet the Uttlesford eligibility criteria.
  7. In the exceptional event that the council is unable to nominate any persons from its Housing Register who comply with 1 to 6 above, the Registered Provider would offer tenancies to Eligible Persons, the definition of which would be consistent with both the council's local connection criteria and the occupancy requirements. The priority when offering tenancies to Eligible Persons would mirror the council's policies on Allocation of Properties.

We select nominations which meet the criteria set out in 1 to 6 in the priority order of their local connection and then on the basis of their housing need and then the date that their housing need priority was awarded.


Housing needs surveys

A housing needs survey asks people about their current housing situation and their possible housing needs for the future. They are designed to discover what kind of housing people need and the type of affordable housing in their area.

A survey is a key starting point for any town or parish council interested in responding to their local housing challenges.

Rural Housing Enabler

The Rural Community Council of Essex (RCCE) is an independent charity helping town and parish councils throughout Essex influence change with a wide range of services to ensure rural communities can build a sustainable future.

RCCE has a Rural Housing Enabler (RHE) who can help with a housing needs survey. The enabler acts as an independent advisor, providing close impartial assistance in developing quality affordable housing for those with a strong local connection to their rural parish.


Contact RCCE if you would like to find out more about how they can help your town or parish or if you would like the Rural Housing Enabler to come to a parish council meeting to discuss your options.

Tel: 01376 574330

Case study

Find out how the community of Roxwell worked with the Rural Community Council of Essex to build affordable homes for people with a connection to the local area.


Watch the video about the Roxwell Affordable Scheme on YouTube.