Page last updated at 09:16 GMT, Monday, 22 June 2009 10:16 UK

Threat to village pubs and shops

Drinking a pint
The coalition has warned British village life is in 'terminal decline'

"A chronic shortage of affordable housing" is forcing "unprecedented" numbers of village pubs and shops to close, campaign groups have warned.

The National Housing Federation, the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) and the Rural Shops Alliance (RSA) have joined forces to highlight the issue.

They say 650 village pubs and 400 shops will close over the next 12 months.

Rich commuters and second-home owners out-price locals who are the bedrock of local trade, the campaigners say.

The RSA said about 1,200 rural shops had closed over the past two years and the BBPA said last year more than 600 countryside pubs shut down.

'Widening gap'

The National Housing Federation, which represents England's housing associations, estimates about 100,000 new affordable homes need to be built in England alone to meet demand in rural areas over the next 10 years.

The federation is calling on local authorities in rural areas to draw up action plans to address the housing needs of their communities.

A spokesman for the coalition said: "Rural house prices tend to be well above the national average, while rural incomes are well below the national average - and this affordability gap has widened rather than narrowed over the last five years.

It rips the heart out of community life
David Orr
National Housing Federation

"But a shortage of suitable land, a failure to assess local housing needs and local opposition often means the affordable homes which are desperately needed are never built."

Housing federation chief executive David Orr said: "If the local pub and shop disappear from a village, it rips the heart out of community life.

"Many villages are now in real danger of losing their unique identity. They are becoming holiday zones preserved for tourists and second home owners, which close down for business in the winter."

Mark Hastings, of the BBPA, said village pubs were not only central to village communities, they were a "key part of our heritage".

And Ken Parsons, chief executive of the RSA warned that rural communities risk losing these services for ever.

He said: "Once these shops and pubs have closed, most are gone for good - only a small proportion will ever be revived."

But a spokesman for the Department of Communities and Local Government said proposals had already been set out to help rural communities.

"We have invested more than £230m in the last three years in rural affordable homes, providing nearly 7,500 homes," he said.

"And as part of our £8.4bn investment in affordable housing, we are aiming to build more than 10,000 homes in the smallest rural communities over the next three years to meet affordable housing need."

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