You may have been wondering what has happened about housing since last year. To refresh your memories:

There were two main reasons for this:

These are problems shared by many rural villages; people with a "local connection" have been forced to move out because there is nothing suitable or affordable for them. We face a grim fact - our population in Longparish declined last year from 703 to 690, according to Test Valley Borough Council statistics, and we are predicted to fall to 640 in another 8 years.

This threatens the lifeblood of our village. All the evidence shows that a village's facilities start to close when the population drops in number. The Parish Plan concluded that this problem could best be addressed by a small development to provide affordable houses that might meet the needs of young people, families and older villagers wanting to move to a smaller, more manageable home. A Housing Task Group was set up last summer to see what could be achieved.

Recent developments

Since then, a number of things have happened:

We have been here before, however. Twice before when the need was demonstrated, our efforts failed, because landowners were not willing to release a suitable site for the kind of prices that were available under the existing rural exceptions policy. With support from the Test Valley Association of Parish Councils, our Borough Council changed the rules in August to help us and other villages in this situation, with a new planning policy called ESNO6. This permits a "mixed" development, of both "affordable" and "open market" housing, where this is supported by a Parish Plan and provides clear benefits to the community.

The open market houses are sold at a commercial rate, which gives an incentive to landowners to provide the land needed for the affordable housing units. Including some market houses also enables the landowner to contribute to the cost of community facilities which a Parish Plan has identified as important. In our case this could include refurbishing the village hall, an all-weather footpath from North Acre to the school, church and halls, and/or solutions to some of our current parking problems. We estimate that the open market element would be no more than a third of the total number of houses built.

We believe that this new policy gives us a real chance to secure a site for some new affordable housing in Longparish, which is crucial to the sustainability of our village and its amenities. We are also concerned that there is a shortage of smaller houses for those people who already live in the village in larger homes, but would like to "trade down" to smaller open market accommodation as they get older, and their children leave home. The open market houses in our development could help free up some larger open market houses in the village for families.

Next Steps

The Housing Group has started to work with Test Valley Borough Council to identify potential sites in the village for a mixed development of affordable social and open market housing. We are also talking with landowners, planners, developers and housing associations about the best way forward.

We also need people with a local connection to make sure they are on the Housing Register if in need of affordable housing. It's a complicated jigsaw puzzle to get everyone on board, and to make sure that the proposal that comes forward is acceptable to the village.

Your Views

In the meantime, we need to show that the new housing will have the support of the village, and that there are real benefits to meet both the community gain and the sustainability requirements of the new planning policy.

We want YOUR input on the principles that any development will have to fulfil, and we want YOUR ideas about what community facilities we should put on our "wish list" of village improvements to be included in the development. We will be taking the next three months to run a series of consultations, including leaflets, open exhibitions, meetings with different village groups, and individual discussions with anyone (and everyone!) in the village who is interested.

Inserted into this H&V issue is a list of these activities. If you do not have the insert, you can download a copy from the village website or please contact a member of the Housing Group to get your copy.

The group is: Mike Johnson (Chair) 720441 Jeremy Barber 720459, Mary Jo Darrah 720320, Cheryl Dowler or Trevor Bettell on 720581, Fiona Gould 720709, Catherine Sweet on 720550.