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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 March, 2004, 06:58 GMT
Calls for 'locals only' housing
Rural homes (freefoto.com)
Many people cannot afford to buy houses in rural areas
Welsh local authorities have been urged to follow the lead of an English council which is building housing in rural areas for local people only.

South Shropshire council has told BBC Wales' current affairs programme - Taro Naw - that its scheme is legal and within planning guidelines.

And an independent planning consultant has said that councils in Wales could follow suit.

Henry Roberts, Gwynedd's former chief planning officer, described the scheme as "very brave".

"I think they've taken a very important step forward - showing the way to a lot of authorities in Wales," he said.

"What's important here is that they've acted not just written a policy on paper."

Local people deserve our support - we're not shy about that
Steve Price
The idea has been introduced in order to get to grips with a lack of lower-cost housing in the area.

Clare and Duncan Bennett are the first couple to get planning permission under the new scheme in South Shropshire.

With properties in the area selling for as much as 180,000 they said they had no hope of buying a house.

"In order to get permission we had to answer a string of questions," said Clare.

"How long we'd lived in the area, our education, also about our parents and why we wanted to build a house in the countryside.

"But at the end of the day we met all those criteria because we've lived here all our lives," she added.

There are stringent conditions attached to the planning permission.

If the house is sold, it cannot be for more than 60,000 and the buyer has to live locally.

One of South Shropshire's chief officers, Steve Price, said he was "not at all abashed about the fact it gives advantage to local people."

"As a district council we are concerned with the socio-economic and environmental well being of the area and local people deserve our support - we're not shy about that," he said.

The Welsh Assembly Government last week refused to allow local authorities to introduce new planning rules to favour local people.

Planning and Countryside Minister Carwyn Jones said that although he was very much in favour of increasing the pool of cheaper housing, he feared restricting some area to "locals only" could pose legal problems.

Taro Naw will be broadcast on Tuesday at 2035 GMT on S4C.

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