The Prince of Wales has launched a major initiative to encourage landowners and businesses to provide more affordable housing, particularly for key workers, families on low income and young people in rural areas.

Eleven possible sites for affordable housing development have been earmarked by the Duchy of Cornwall, ranging in size from just one dwelling up to 25. HRH Prince Charles, who alongside the Duke of Westminster, the Housing Corporation and the Countryside Agency, are steering the project, has also asked the Duchy to contact all Parish Councils in areas where it owns land to offer help with smaller housing schemes.

Furthermore, two guides have been published to help farmers, landowners and businesses understand the ways in which they can help. The first, aimed at landowners, encourages them to consider releasing land for social housing, and the second, aimed at businesses, suggests how redevelopment of disused properties can be useful and calls on lawyers, surveyors and architects to help local communities.

At the launch, Prince Charles said: ‘In recent years, property prices have spiralled out of the reach of many people who work locally and whose families have formed part of the community in our towns, villages and hamlets for generations. They are being forced to leave for towns and cities and when they go they take with them the children on whom village schools depend, the business on which village shops and pubs survive, and above all the history and that sense of community which makes our countryside such a special place.’

Prince Charles tells Clive Aslet, editor of Country Life, that the most satisfying aspect to Poundbury, the model development village outside Dorchester, is the building of ‘a balanced social community’ through the ‘integration of social and private housing’. He adds, ‘I would like to see whether we could extend the integration of social housing at Poundbury to include affordable housing to buy as well as rent, aimed especially at young families and key workers.’

The Prince and the Duke of Westminster are jointly funding two two-year posts at Business in the Community, who will persuade companies to find ways of making land and buildings available as well as acting as guardians of sensitive design.

The initiative was welcomed by the Country Land and Business Association, who are considering a range of options intended to bring forward more land for suitably scaled and designed rural housing. The landowners voiced concern that, despite an increase in the rural programme of the Housing Corporation, the number of affordable homes currently being built is still at the same level as it was in the mid nineties. President Sir Edward Greenwell said: ‘More funding through the Housing Corporation is an essential ingredient to encourage moreaffordable housing schemes, schemes that are certainly needed to keep the lifeblood in our villages.’

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