Homes England accused of blocking Arkengarthdale affordable housing scheme

The site of the proposed houses.

The public body responsible for funding new affordable housing in England has been accused of blocking a landmark housing scheme designed to arrest the exodus of young people from the Yorkshire Dales.

The Upper Dales Community Land Trust said it feared the inflexibility of Homes England over a plan to build affordable homes for rent in Arkengarthdale in the Yorkshire Dales could lead to “a complete collapse in the community in the Dale”.

The houses would be the first social houses available to rent in the dale, where an urgent need for homes for young local people who have been “priced out of the area” by second home owners, has been identified.

The trust said with planning permission, a charity bank loan, a grant from Richmondshire District Council, building work had been due to start in June on the scheme.

It said the final piece of the jigsaw, £240,000 from Homes England’s Community Housing Fund should have been simple to secure given that it fulfilled the duty given to them by the Government.

Upper Dales North Yorkshire County councillor John Blackie said Homes England had insisted the trust needed to be a registered social housing provider or to partner up with a registered social housing provider.

He said the former action would take a year, while the other would mean a partnership with Richmondshire District Council, which would mean the scheme would no longer be solely the responsibility of the community.

Cllr Blackie emphasised that the project was dependent on the landowner selling the site at a discounted rate, which he would only do if the scheme would be of benefit to the community in perpetuity.

He said: “I am at a loss to understand how Homes England can square its objectives to galvanise community-led housing at grass roots level in a deeply rural area like the Upper Dales with all the barriers it appears to be putting in our way, barriers that would scare off very nearly all the parish councils and community organisations it needs to engage with to deliver what it has been tasked to do.”

A Homes England spokeswoman said the Community Housing Fund was helping to increase housing supply across England to deliver the homes that communities.

She said: “It is a legal requirement for the provider to also be the landlord when homes are delivered for rent through this grant funding and we encourage groups to partner up with an established registered provider when they are unable to meet the criteria on their own.”