This case study highlights how affordable housing that meets local needs can be delivered in rural areas.

Location: Churcham, Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire


Churcham is a small development of seven new houses on a Rural Exception Site in Churcham, Forest of Dean. It is the first new affordable housing to be constructed in the parish for fifty years.

It is included as a case study because it is perceived as a good example of agencies working together, with the support from the local community, to deliver a project to meet a recognised local need. Homes are managed by 2RH (housing association) – five are ‘general needs’ homes let at affordable rents, while the other two properties are shared ownership.

Project details

People with a local connection to Churcham will be given priority for the mix houses, flats and a bungalow. This allocations policy also fits with Forest of Dean District Council’s priorities. Delivering the project took five years – tenants moved in early in 2018.

The project was delivered in ‘key stages’:

  • An initial discussion involved the parish council, led by Gloucestershire Rural Community Council and Forest of Dean District Council – there was no developer involvement, so parish was involved from the start in discussions around local housing needs

  • Several possible sites were identified

  • Site was chosen – negotiation with landowner

  • Community consultation, with parish council involved

  • Two Rivers Housing Association bought the land

  • A decision was made on what to build, based on outcomes from a Housing Needs Survey carried out by Gloucestershire Rural Community Council with the community

  • ‘Mock up’ discussed with parish council: ‘this is what it will look like’

  • Confirmation development was viable, in line with needs and acceptable to parish council

  • Homes were built

Key Details


Viability was key to the development – the two/three bedroomed shared ownership properties offset the cost of the two one-bedroomed flats.

Community involvement

Extensive consultation and community engagement was essential to the success of the project. At the initial stage a housing needs survey established that over 80% of consultees were supportive; the strongest objections were received when the site was identified.

The level of objections was reduced by:

The parish council’s support for the development, expressed with clarity and consistency throughout the process
Showing that other sites had also been considered and this one identified as the best choice
Choice of high quality design for the new properties – residents have stated that ‘you wouldn’t know they were social housing’
Emphasis on ‘local connection’ in allocating the properties

Who are the key stakeholders involved?

Churcham Parish Council
Forest of Dean District Council
Three Rivers Housing Association
Gloucestershire Rural Community Council

Impact: What are the outcomes? Who benefits?

The development has gone ahead, providing homes for seven local families within the local community with a lower than usual level of opposition from neighbours.

The parish council has grown in confidence and, through its advocacy of this project, raised its own profile and provided leadership for others.

So what?

What are the risks and challenges for initiating and also maintaining this initiative?

Two Rivers Housing took a calculated risk in acquiring the site without first securing planning permission. It was felt that the risk was minor as the parish council had been so involved in the site, and that local housing need had been clearly identified. These were thought to seen as significant benefits by the planning authority.

Key learning

Involve parish council from the beginning of the project – and carry out an assessment of local housing needs in partnership with them.

Commit to a high level of public consultation and ensure clear feedback is always provided (for example using the format ‘you said …’; ‘our response was …’; ‘the outcome was …’).

A supportive landowner is essential. Landowners will expect a fair market price for their land, based on an understanding that without this particular development as a Rural Exception Site the land would only be valued as agricultural land.

In allocating properties Forest of Dean District took account both of the Housing Needs Survey and information from the Housing Needs Register. These two sources established a sound understanding of local needs.

Source/s of information:

(1) Tenant Topics Newsletter (Spring 2017);

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