Bishop of St Albans asks about housing, schools and levelling up in rural areas

The Bishop of St Albans received the following written answers on 1st February 2023:

The Lord Bishop of St Albans asked His Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to promote affordable housing developments in rural areas.

Baroness Scott of Bybrook (Con): The National Planning Policy Framework already makes clear that planning policies and decisions should be responsive to local circumstances in rural areas. Our Rural Exception Sites policy allows for the development of small affordable housing sites in rural areas, with the majority of housing on these sites being available to local people in perpetuity, and we published planning practice guidance in 2020 to help local authorities and developers bring more of these sites forward.

Our proposals for the National Planning Policy Framework launched for consultation on 22 December 2022. As part of this consultation we are seeking views on how we can strengthen the role of community groups in delivering affordable housing, particularly in rural areas.


The Lord Bishop of St Albans asked His Majesty’s Government:

  • what steps they are taking to ensure that rural areas are able to bid successfully to the Levelling Up Fund.
  • what assessment they have made of the division of Levelling Up funding between (1) rural, and (2) urban, areas.

Baroness Scott of Bybrook: I refer the noble Lord to the answer given by my Hon Friend, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Levelling Up (Dehenna Davison) to Question UIN 129836(opens in a new tab) on 26 January 2023.

We recognise that economic differences remain between different parts of the UK including in rural areas. That’s why the Levelling Up Fund is open to all local authorities across Great Britain to apply. We recognise that what constitutes priority investment will vary across local authorities and geographies, including in rural areas of the UK. That is why applicants have the flexibility to prepare proposals against one of the three investment themes, focusing on high priority and high impact projects that will make a visible positive difference to the context of their local area.



The Lord Bishop of St Albans asked His Majesty’s Government how many local authority maintained schools designated as rural were shut down in (1) 2019, (2) 2020, and (3) 2021.

Baroness Barran (Con): The table below shows the number of mainstream local authority maintained primary schools that are designated by order as rural as part of the Rural Primary Schools Designation and have closed in the years stated in the question. This data has been taken from Get Information About Schools, the department’s register of schools. Schools are identified as rural via the Office of National Statistics Rural Urban Classification. The data excludes closures of schools which are not local authority maintained primary schools as set out in Section 15 (4) of Education and Inspections Act 2006.

Calendar YearNumber of rural schools closed

The presumption against the closure of rural schools means that when considering proposals to close a rural local authority maintained primary school, decision makers must refer to the list of rural designated schools. This does not mean that a rural school will never close, but that the case for closure should be strong and clearly in the best interests of educational provision in the area. The bodies listed under Section 16 (1) of the Education and Inspections Act 2006 are also required to be consulted when proposing the closure of a rural local authority maintained primary school, and other alternatives to closure must have been considered.


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