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Warning over affordable rural homes

Rural communities could "shrivel and die" if the Government fails to build enough affordable housing in the countryside, campaigners have warned.

Official figures showed that local authorities planned to build only a fraction of the required number of inexpensive homes in 2010-11.

Of 135 rural and semi-rural councils in England, there was an identified annual need of 76,532 homes but a target of only 17,208 - a shortfall of 78%.

The Countryside Alliance, which obtained the figures through Freedom of Information requests, warned that a lack of affordable rural homes could lead to the break-up of communities and a loss of services.

Rural and urban councils across England, Wales and Scotland were asked how many affordable homes they planned to create in 2010-11, and how many were identified as required in the latest Housing Needs Survey.

Overall there was a shortfall of 176,360 affordable homes (76%) across the 306 councils that responded, with a need for 230,547 new units and targets to build only 54,187.

Figures were only available for the projected number of new homes rather than those actually built.

Countryside Alliance chief executive Alice Barnard said: "Even in the current difficult economic climate, meeting rural housing need must continue to be a priority for the Government, its agencies and local authorities.

"The Countryside Alliance's research highlights that affordable housing provision is a huge challenge in both urban and rural areas.

"But if the rural need for affordable housing is not addressed, and urgently, many of those communities upon which our countryside depends will shrivel and die."

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