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Call to scrap Norfolk farmers home rule

PUBLISHED: 11:44 05 October 2009 | UPDATED: 15:13 03 July 2010

Norfolk county council chiefs are battling to scrap a rule which bars elderly tenant farmers from getting social housing on council-owned land because they are not classed as most in need.

Norfolk county council chiefs are battling to scrap a rule which bars elderly tenant farmers from getting social housing on council-owned land because they are not classed as most in need.

The council has a policy of offering up land for affordable housing projects to help meet demand in rural areas.

But hopes that the authority could nominate properties to retiring county farmers with no homes to go to were dashed after district councils said it broke housing rules.

The situation has created a bottleneck in the system because younger farmers cannot take up any tenancies until the older tenants can retire and move out of their farmhouses.

The council has provided land on six so-called “exception sites” for affordable housing and gained permission for 51 homes while a further application for six more homes has also been submitted.

But when the authority asked housing association Circle Anglia for nomination rights on a house at Burlingham Road, South Walsham, the application was refused by Broadland District Council.

County Hall said the issue was a national problem and it was lobbying central government for a solution, while ministers have set up a working group to look at allowing landowners to have nomination rights when providing exception sites for affordable housing.

Tony Williams, cabinet member corporate and commercial services, said: “As a caring landlord, it's a great shame that, having identified and provided the land on which to build these new homes, we are unable to reserve any nomination rights for existing farm tenants on whose estates the homes are to be built.

“This is something we would very much like the Government to address, because it would help us by potentially freeing up houses for young farmers and allowing older farmers to move to new accommodation 'close to home'. I'm also convinced authorities would be encouraged to find more parcels of land, if tenancy nomination rights existed.

“This is certainly not a problem faced by Norfolk alone and is something which can only be solved through intervention at a national level. However, we are already working with other councils through ACES (Association of Chief Estates Officers) and will certainly press the government to take action when its working group on the rural economy and affordable housing gets down to work.”

A Broadland Council spokesman said under the current rules any tenant would have to be on the housing register to be eligible to apply through the home options scheme, and there were no other routes to getting a home.


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