North Herefordshire MP Sir Bill Wiggin has attacked a prominent local councillor over her stance on affordable rural housing.

He said he was “astonished” at comments by Ledbury councillor Liz Harvey’s remarks during a recent Labour Party-organised meeting in the town, in which she said the county council should intervene to buy up land for rural homes.

“People will rightly be asking questions about what these comments mean for our future food security if farmers are forced to sell their land,” Sir Bill said.


Tipped to win a general election next year, Labour recently committed to a policy of enabling councils in England to buy land for housebuilding cheaply using compulsory purchase orders, in an effort to address the national housing shortage.

“If Coun Harvey does not wish to protect our green spaces, then residents might wonder how much more compulsory development we can expect in Ledbury and further afield,” Sir Bill said.

But Coun Harvey, who has no connection to Labour, said such a policy could benefit rural areas in particular.


“Under current government policy there is no obligation to provide an affordable housing element on developments of under 15 homes,” she explained.

“But our villages struggle to find that kind of space, which would unbalance them, so those kind of sites don’t get allocated.”

Meanwhile housing developers “want to avoid the affordable requirement as it depresses the value of their market properties”, she said.

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The previous Herefordshire administration, in which Coun Harvey was cabinet member for planning, attempted to lower the bar on this obligation to five properties, with developers then funding affordable developments elsewhere.

But this approach depends on suitable land being available, and landowners “may rather hold out for market housing”, Coun Harvey said.

The Conservative administration which took over in May has since delayed revising the county’s key planning document, the core strategy, which will not now be consulted on until spring, she added.

“This should be an opportunity for people to say where and how development should come forward, and raise the profile of the issue which people feel there is no solution to.”