This week marks Rural Housing Week, and for years, Exmoor Young Voices has campaigned for more affordable rural housing for young residents and workers on the moor. We have some of the highest housing prices in the country, and, with comparatively low wages, most young people can't afford to remain living in the place they've long called home. An alarming number are moving away, taking vital rural skills, knowledge and experience away from the moor. You don't need us to tell you that without the next generation, the future of Exmoor looks bleak.
Exmoor Young Voices exists to engage young people across Exmoor, listen to their issues, offer dedicated support, report their experiences and propose strategies to key policy decision-makers. It's a challenging task, but we are making a difference, and people care what we have to say.
Key achievements include:
Just recently, we secured a role in the new Local Community Network for Exmoor. Representatives of Exmoor Young Voices will also participate in a Next Generation workshop, sharing their views and helping to inform the Exmoor National Park Partnership Plan.
News of Exmoor Young Voices is spreading far and wide, and your voices are getting louder by the minute.
Rural Housing on Exmoor - Self Build Homes
At the beginning of 2023, we conducted a survey titled ‘Young People on Exmoor’, and a report of our findings will be available in the coming weeks. Our aim with the survey was to build a clearer picture of young people on Exmoor, listen to their current needs and assess how we can support them better. As an organisation, we were also keen to gather more ‘evidence’ of the difficulties young Exmoor residents and workers face and reach new young people who want to get involved with EYV.
The survey allowed young people to share their issues and experiences of living on Exmoor and suggest what could be improved. In terms of rural housing, young people were crystal clear in that they wanted to see:
Exmoor Young Voices has identified ‘Self Build’ and ‘Custom Build’ homes as one of the only ways for young people on Exmoor to own a home. It is a common misconception that you can’t build on a National Park like Exmoor. Policies in the Exmoor National Park Local Plan allow self build homes for local people who cannot buy a property to meet their needs on the open market. For years, we have worked closely with Exmoor National Park to raise awareness of self-building and find ways to make it a more feasible option for young people wanting to continue living on the moor.
While a possible solution to the rural housing crisis, self-building is no easy feat. Hence, we have set up the Exmoor Young Voices Self Build Project led by Justin Tyers to offer extensive support to young people interested in building their own homes on Exmoor. From helping to find a plot of land to designing architectural plans and securing self build funding - we aim to offer expert advice every step of the way, along with the encouragement you need to make your dream affordable home on Exmoor a reality. Visit our Self Build Project page to find out more.
Exmoor Self Build Project - We need your help
For our Self Build Project to be a resounding success, we need support from the local community. The biggest hurdle our self-builders face is finding affordable land suitable for building. You’ve likely seen our requests for land on social media. We’ve been on local radio too! Essentially, we’re looking for landowners on Exmoor willing to sell a parcel of land to a local family. We encourage you to show your generosity and do your bit to support the next generation on the moor.
Selling land isn’t the only way you can support Exmoor Young Voices’ Self Build Project. We’d also love to hear from anyone who can:
Forget all your preconceptions of affordable housing. The house you build will be better quality than developer-built housing because it’s not driven by profit. Use ‘How To Build your Dream Home for £99,000 - or less!’ as a step-by-step manual, with helpful information throughout the self build process, from finding land, DIY house design and making a planning application, right through to every ‘trade’ and moving in.
Building a better future for Exmoor
We are aware that self build homes aren’t for everyone. However, they are of interest to many of the young people who have come to our meetings, filled in our surveys, sent us email enquiries and participated in our self build tours, and have, therefore, become a key focus for Exmoor Young Voices.
In addition to this, Exmoor Young Voices continue to campaign for easier access to social housing on Exmoor, more affordable rent for young people, and local houses for local people. We work closely with Exmoor housing associations and charities, of which you can find details on Our Partners page.
If you have any questions, require support, want to share your ideas or get in touch, please email email@example.com
This week, Exmoor Young Voices Coordinator, Megan, and our Self Build Project Leader, Justin, chatted to Laura James on The Voice FM (North Devon Radio) about supporting young people on the moor who are interested in building their own affordable homes. Listen here & if you are interested in finding out more or supporting our Self Build Project on Exmoor, please get in touch:
As local young residents become aware of EYV and the adjunct Self Build Project through the publicity and awareness work that we're doing, we are receiving more and more enquiries about 'how to become a self builder'. The initial enthusiasm of most enquirers subsides when they become aware of the hurdles which stand between them and the reality of building, but of those who return to the enquiry, there is a real sense of commitment.
The reality of building within a National Park - even one which would like to facilitate self build - and the increased paperwork that National Park status brings (wildlife studies, conservation areas, and environmental protection issues) has, in a few cases, resulted in our applicants abandoning the Park and taking their self build ambitions elsewhere.
The biggest issue remains 'building land': We still have only four plots which offer a realistic prospect of eventually seeing self-build development. For some (families with children who are settled into schools or nurseries, perhaps, or those with family members living near their current home, the plots we offer are in an inconvenient location - without uprooting and starting again. After all, the Park contains an area of 270 square miles - and our plots (with one exception) lie along the ten miles of road between Exford and Luxborough.
Other applicants object to the 'smallness' of the plots citing the difficulty of growing vegetables and space for children to play, for example - a vision shared by many for their new family home.
One couple - childless at the moment but planning a family in the future, wonders how they would manage in 93m2 of habitable space in the long term, and no possibility of extending what they built 'at first'.
Applicants feel that if they're going to go to all the effort of building themselves a home, they're not going to do it on a plot which is nearly, but isn't quite what they're after - particularly as they expect to have a lifelong commitment to the house they build.
Consequently, many of those families who have viewed our plots decide that they will 'hang on' in the hope of finding a building plot on the moor which offers them room for a home and outdoor life at that home - not an uncommon ambition, I suppose, among people who love the environment.
As for the rest, several applicants do not yet qualify for 'local connection' status. Their applications will take time - perhaps years - as they establish 'tie' criteria through continued employment or just serving their residential time.
This will be a longer-term project than I envisaged - but there are many more applicants than I imagined we would have, and they, at least, are on the slow-moving conveyor belt.
Justin Tyers, Exmoor Young Voices Self Build Project Leader
Key figures / info:
Megan Hunt, Exmoor Young Voices Coordinator