Today, the Princess Royal, along with Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence will visit Arlington Fields, Bibury in Gloucestershire to open a new affordable housing development. The project built the 11 affordable homes was a partnership between several nonprofit and local entities including, Cirencester Housing, Severn Vale Housing Society, Bibury Parish Council, Gloucestershire Rural Community Council and Cotswold District Council. Before meeting those integral to bringing this development to fruition, The Princess Royal will first meet and talk with residents living in this affordable housing.
The homes were completed in March 2015. The Homes and Communities Agency partially funded their construction through a grant they provided while Cirencester Housing, a nonprofit organization registered with this agency, financed the remaining costs. Cirencester Housing’s main focus is on providing affordable housing to people and families with connections to the area in which the housing development is located. They will own and manage these homes.
As in many rural villages across the Cotswolds, property values have been on the rise in Bibury. This makes securing housing unattainable for locals who have low-paying jobs or may do seasonal work in and around the village. Back in 2006, the Bibury Parish Council recognized the impact this was having on the local community. They joined forces with the Rural Housing Enabler, which is employed by Gloucestershire Rural Community Council.
Cllr Sue Jephson, Cabinet Member for Housing at Cotswold District Council, spoke about the extensive research taken to examine this housing issue: “Cotswold District Council recognises the housing challenges that rural villages like Bibury are facing. In this instance, our strategic housing team conducted a parish housing needs survey and worked closely with Cirencester Housing, responding to community needs in Bibury and maximising the allocation of new housing to local people. Additionally, our conservation and design officers ensured that the new dwellings were built in a traditional style that blends with the surrounding landscape. Affordable housing developments like Arlington Fields help to ensure that Cotswold communities retain a good mixture of residents from all age groups, including young families and income earners. This helps local villages to remain viable and sustainable places to live.”
The rural exceptions planning policy was used to help build these homes. Planning for their development was secured in 2013. This policy allows for plots of land which wouldn’t normally be considered for utilization to be built upon under the condition that they are made available to locals and are affordable.
Careful consideration for design and materials used was given to ensure the homes were similar in style to other local residences. Most importantly, however, these new establishments will provide cost-effective measures to their residents through air-source heat pumps which run on renewable technology.
Speaking of the visit, Sandy Price, Chairman of Cirencester Housing, said: “We are thrilled to be able to welcome HRH The Princess Royal to Arlington Fields and highlight what has been achieved through the commitment and hard work of all involved, most critically Bibury Parish Council who took the initial pro-active steps to secure affordable homes for their local community. Working with Gloucestershire Rural Community Council, and the Rural Housing Enabler, Cirencester Housing hopes to achieve many similar projects over the next few years. The lack of affordable rural housing is a national problem but acutely impacts the Cotswolds area.”
Chairman of Bibury Parish Council, Cilla Phillips had this to say about the occasion: “The Parish Council is delighted that HRH The Princess Royal will have the opportunity to visit Arlington Fields and see what has been achieved by our the local community. Recognising the need for affordable homes the Parish Council has worked hard to support the project for over nine years and the 11 homes will go some way towards meeting the local demand. For many years house prices in the village have been increasing beyond the reach of local households, particularly younger ones, who have moved from the village in search of an affordable home elsewhere, leaving family and friend networks behind them. “The support of the local community has been important to the Parish Council as the project has progressed, the Rural Housing Enabler has worked with us to achieve this, ensuring the process has been transparent and consultative throughout.”