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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 May 2006, 14:35 GMT 15:35 UK
Unusual attraction of Dales village
By Sarah Mukherjee
BBC environment correspondent in the Derbyshire Dales

As a government-backed commission calls for 11,000 new houses a year in rural areas for people on low incomes, BBC News takes a look at one scheme aimed at bridging the gap.

For sale signs
First-time buyers say they are being priced out of some rural areas

You do not have to travel far around the Peak National park to see why people want to live here.

Woodland, dappled green and gold in the spring sunshine, gives way to craggy farmland and dramatic cliffs.

And the village of Tideswell, which is clustered around its ancient church that is known as the "cathedral of the peak", is one of the places prospective house buyers will look.

But the sound of birdsong and livestock has recently been joined by those of concrete mixers and earth movers.

For Tideswell has an unusual attraction that will encourage even more people to consider it - a building site where low-cost housing, rather than expensive executive homes, is being built.

Namely, 22 houses and bungalows built in typical Dales style, which are being constructed with couples and young families in mind.

Good fortune

Julie Wright is one of the lucky ones. And her good fortune has come she says, just at the right time.

"We're getting married at the weekend and it's all fallen into place. The house will be ready at the end of the month," she says.

At the moment, Ms Wright and her fiance are living with her family.

She works for the county council and he works in the local asphalt works. Between them, they say, there is no way they could afford a house anywhere else in the area.

Local people realise these homes will provide young people in the village with their first step on the housing ladder
Gerald Taylor
Dales Housing

Their new home is part of a shared ownership scheme - they buy half, the other half remains owned by Dales Housing, the organisation that is behind the new development.

"We've had a lot of support from the local community," says chief executive Gerald Taylor.

"Local people realise these homes will provide young people in the village with their first step on the housing ladder."

But he admits it has not been so easy elsewhere in the area. One proposed development raised 100 objections

Indeed, the Affordable Rural Housing Commission's report, which was released on Wednesday, points out that often the biggest obstacle to building low-cost housing developments are the people who do not want them built in their backyard.

Easy commute

Another difficulty the area faces is that, according to Dales Housing, a third of the population of England live within an hour's drive of the Derbyshire Dales.

Commuting to Sheffield, Manchester and Birmingham is easy and some local councils say there are even people who commute to London from here.

The postman and the milkman have to live somewhere
Rob Coggins
Derbyshire Dales District Council

People retire here and buy what used to be workers' cottages as holiday homes.

Local people realise it is not a clear-cut situation - someone, after all, is selling these houses, but they are going to "outsiders".

But the commission says the current acute low-cost housing shortage is unsustainable.

In Tideswell alone, 60 families were identified as having housing needs.

"The postman and the milkman have to live somewhere," says Rob Coggins from Derbyshire Dales District Council.

He points out the tourist industry will not survive without people to work in the pubs and tearooms.

So what can be done?

'Money needed'

Tom Oliver, head of policy for the Campaign to Protect Rural England, says the planning system is the key.

"It needs to be better able to ensure that it can secure affordable housing," he said.

"The way of achieving that is for local authorities to use their existing powers more effectively to make developers provide affordable housing where needed.

"Money is also needed from the government."

The government itself says it welcomes the report, and accepts the need for more social housing.

But for every happy soon-to-be-owner in Tideswell, there are many disappointed families - a situation that may continue for the foreseeable future.

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