Housing minister Grant Shapps has unveiled his plans to allow rural housing schemes of up to 20 homes to by-pass planning laws.
The Right to Build initiative, part of Prime Minister David Cameron’s Big Society, aims to provide small numbers of affordable homes in rural areas.
Shapps said: “Up and down the country there are entire communities eager to give the go-ahead for new developments in their area. I want to give communities the power to preserve their villages, which are currently struggling to survive because of a shortage of affordable homes.”
To stop the new system being abused, communities cannot increase a village’s size by more than 10% over 10 years and any successful development would need to show 80-90% majority in favour.
Local people will also be able to group together to buy land through a community land trust, with support from banks. As well as family homes, community groups could build sheltered housing for the elderly, or set aside plots for people to build their own homes.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England has criticised the proposals, which could see building in the green belt, saying there should be proper planning scrutiny of house building by democratically-elected councillors rather than a simple public ballot.