Policy SC 6: Rural Exceptions Housing for Local Needs

Rural Exceptions affordable housing will be permitted as an exception to other policies concerning the countryside, to meet locally identified affordable housing need, subject to all of the following criteria being met:

  1. Sites should adjoin Local Service Centres and Other Settlements and be close to existing employment and existing or proposed services and facilities,including public transport, educational and health facilities and retail services;
  2. Proposals must be for small schemes; small schemes are considered to be those of 10 dwellings or fewer Footnote 54. Any such developments must be appropriate in scale, design and character to the locality;
  3. A thorough site options appraisal must be submitted to demonstrate why the site is the most suitable one. Such an appraisal must demonstrate why the need cannot be met within the settlement;
  4. In all cases, proposals for rural exceptions housing schemes must be supported by an up-to-date Footnote 55 Housing Needs Survey Footnote 56 that identifies the need for such provision within the parish;
  5. Occupancy will, in perpetuity, be restricted to a person in housing need and resident or working in the relevant parish, or who has other strong links with the relevant locality in line with the community connection criteria as set out by Cheshire Homechoice, both initially and on subsequent change of occupancy. This could include Key Workers and Self Build;
  6. The locality to which the occupancy criteria are to be applied is taken as the parish, unless otherwise agreed with Cheshire East Council;
  7. To ensure that a property is let or sold to a person who either lives locally or has strong local connections in the future, the council will expect there to be a 'cascade' approach to the locality issue appropriate to the type of tenure. Thus, first priority is to be given to those satisfying the occupancy criteria in relation to the parish, widening in agreed geographical stages Footnote 57 .

Cross Subsidy

  1. Proposals must consist in their entirety of affordable housing that will be retained in perpetuity. In exceptional circumstances, proposals that intend to include an element of market housing, or plots for open market sale, may be acceptable, if they meet all of the above criteria, along with the criteria below:
    1. Such proposals will only be permitted where it can be demonstrated that the site would not be viable, as a rural exception site, without cross subsidy. The developer will be required to submit an open book viability assessment. In such cases, the Council will commission an independent review of the viability study, for which the developer will bear the cost;
    2. The Council will not accept aspirational land value as justification for allowing a higher proportion of market value units;
    3. The assessment must show that the scale of the market housing component is essential for the successful delivery of the rural exception affordable housing scheme and that it is based on reasonable land values as a rural exception site and must not include an element of profit;
    4. The majority of the development must be for rural exception affordable housing; and
    5. No additional subsidy is required for the scheme.


12.55 The National Planning Policy Framework states that in rural areas 'local planning authorities should be responsive to local circumstances and plan housing development to reflect local needs, particularly for affordable housing, including through rural exception sites where appropriate. Local planning authorities should in particular consider whether allowing some market housing would facilitate the provision of significant additional affordable housing to meet local needs'. Whilst paragraph 89 states ‘a local planning authority should regard the construction of new buildings as inappropriate in Green Belt. Exceptions to this are: . . . and limited affordable housing for local community needs under policies set out in the Local Plan’.

12.56 This policy allows for the allocation of, or granting of planning permission for, small sites comprising affordable housing to meet local needs as an exception to normal policies. The policy sets out the criteria against which such proposals will be evaluated and under what circumstances schemes solely for affordable housing may be permitted.

12.57 The council recognises the particular difficulties in securing an adequate supply of housing for local needs in rural areas. Where it can be demonstrated that a proposed development will meet a particular locally generated need that cannot be accommodated in any other way, affordable housing will be allowed as an exception to normal policy.

12.58 A number of rural exception sites have been successfully delivered in Cheshire East. However, the delivery of such schemes can be slow and the council is keen to facilitate a higher provision of affordable homes in rural areas in the future with a view to maintaining sustainable communities and meeting their specific needs. This includes the provision of housing for key workers such as those involved in health, education or emergency services. It is also recognised that Self Build could be a way of delivering affordable housing in rural areas.

12.59 The provision of small scale market development in conjunction with affordable units will help enable more development sites to come forward to meet local demand. The provision of a small number of market units will also help maintain communities where development would not otherwise occur. Such schemes will, however, only be permitted where viability assessments or some other clear reason demonstrates that this is the only way that affordable housing to meet local needs can be delivered on the site. The council would expect such schemes to be developed with support from parish councils and the Rural Housing Strategy.

12.60 Strong links Footnote 58 are currently identified as those who:

12.61 Further explanation, regarding how this policy will operate, will be included in a Supplementary Planning Document on Affordable Housing (PDF, 642KB).

Key Evidence

  1. Strategic Housing Market Assessment
  2. Local Housing Needs Assessments
  3. Cheshire East Housing Strategy

(Footnote 54) The scale of a Rural Exception site should broadly reflect the affordable housing need appropriate to the parish in which it is situated. The housing need identified in the local housing needs survey is an important factor, however, if a higher housing need is identified (greater than 10 dwellings), then it will be considered appropriate for development of more than one site to meet this need.

(Footnote 55) Within the last five years.

(Footnote 56) Cheshire East Council has up-to-date Housing Needs Surveys for many rural areas which may be utilised. Where an up-to-date survey does not already exist, the applicant must conduct a survey, based on the Cheshire East Council model survey, in conjunction with the parish council where possible.

(Footnote 57) Generally this is taken as the parish and then parish plus adjoining parishes

(Footnote 58) In line with the community connection criteria as set out by Cheshire Homechoice.

Policy information


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