Affordable rural housing heads White Paper plans

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The Government is expected to unveil major changes to help preserve traditional rural life in a far-reaching White Paper today.

The Government is expected to unveil major changes to help preserve traditional rural life in a far-reaching White Paper today.

The Rural White Paper is likely to focus on making homes more affordable and changing planning rules.

Developers will be encouraged to create affordable quality housing for local people in rural areas instead of aiming at rich city dwellers who want to move to the countryside.

It is also likely to diversify and relax planning laws to allow councils the last word on applications for changes in the use of land. Other planning rules - such as those relating to the development of existing buildings - are expected to be relaxed.

Rural bus and minibus services may also get tax breaks, which the Government sees as helping helping families dependent on car use. And computer use in village post offices and community halls is also expected to form part of the proposal.

Countryside campaigners have been asking for measures to return "tranquillity" to the countryside.

The White Paper might also call on councils to allow more noiseless road surfaces, with more sensitive lighting that does not spoil the beauty of the night sky.

There could also be more protection against alien wildlife species on the land and in the rivers

The White Paper will be unveiled by Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott.

Anthony Bonsanquet, president of the Country Landowners' Association, which represents 50,000 rural businesses, said: "Amendment of planning regulations to enable diversification in the rural economy will create much-needed job opportunities.

"In recognising the economic imperatives of the countryside, the Government is also acting to ensure that necessary support services will be in place to encourage rural communities to flourish, with action planned on rural transport, schools, healthcare and policing."

It is thought the White Paper will encourage developers to match luxury properties with affordable homes for local people.

Local authorities may also be given an option to scrap the 50 percent reduction in council tax for second homes.

This would mean that old barns could be turned into hi-tech offices, and local councils would have the final say on applications for changes of use for land.

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