My First Rural Housing Week

Rural Housing Week (3-7 July), is an annual campaign, ran by the National Housing Federation to highlight the importance of local housing for creating sustainable communities. This year the focus is on ‘building a better future for rural communities’.

This is my first Rural Housing Week as the Rural Housing Enabler for Surrey so I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to introduce myself and you invite you to get in touch should you wish to work together to deliver local, affordable homes in your community. My name is Nicola and I’m Surrey Community Action’s Rural Housing Enabler.


On Monday 3rd July the focus was on Rural Homelessness. I attended a webinar on the issue which was also attended by by one of the co-writers of the report ‘Homelessness in the Countryside -A hidden Crisis’’, March 2023, Carin Tunaker, from the University of Kent ( Jointly researched by the University of Southampton). This report highlighted that there has been a 24% rise in the levels of rough sleeping in rural areas in just 1 year.

“There are more places to sleep in tents, cars, and vans. We get a lot of people who do not realise they are rough sleeping…People are also much more removed from services by geography. There is a lack of knowledge about what services are where, what they do and how to access them. As a result, more people develop multiple and complex needs, fall victim to gate keeping, and their situations become more entrenched” – survey respondent.

In response to this a ‘Rural Homelessness Counts Coalition’ has been set up. This is a group of rural and homeless organisations, such as English Rural, The National Housing Federation, and the Centre for Homelessness Impact. The ‘Rural Homeless Counts Coalition’ has made a pledge which includes fostering partnerships, raising awareness, encouraging the adoption of evidence-based approaches, and developing and advocating solutions to tackle rural homelessness. The coalition encourages you to join: “Whether you’re an individual passionate about housing equality, a local authority, a rural housing association, or another stakeholder, your support can make a difference. By joining the coalition, you’ll be part of a powerful movement working to ensure that rural homelessness counts”. If you have like to find out more information about the coalition, please contact [email protected]


“Building more affordable homes is crucial for rural communities – to tackle rising homelessness, for people who want to stay in their local area, and to enhance the quality of housing available to residents. However, our planning system often presents significant barriers to this.”    National Housing Federation

On Wednesday, the focus was on the planning process for delivering rural housing.  Ulrike Maccariello, Development Director of the Hascoe Group, Nick Gallent, Professor of Housing and Planning, The Bartlett School of Planning, University College London (UCL), and Adam Morton, Senior Manager-Affordable Housing Strategy, Homes England, gave presentations on a webinar about planning, opportunities, and obstacles for delivering rural housing. These were very informative and well worth listening to.

If you are interested in how the planning process works, listen to Ulrike explain the process involved including opportunities and obstacles.

Garrent from UCL gave an update on current live research entitled “Delivering Affordable Housing on Rural Exception sites”  due to be completed and available to read this autumn. Keep an eye out for this publication. He would like local authorities to share their experiences and data on this matter. You can do this by contacting: [email protected]

In exploring what factors advance or impede the progress of rural housing in exception sites, his preliminary findings indicated that, among other important issues, community support and access to a Rural Housing Enabler, to act an honest broker working with all stakeholders, can be key to helping to drive affordable housing projects in local areas.

Adam Morton, from Homes England, referred to  Homes England strategic plan 2023 to 2028 – GOV.UK ( published in May. This relates to both rural and urban planning:

“Our mission- We drive regeneration and housing delivery to create high-quality homes and thriving places. This will support greater social justice, the levelling up of communities across England and the creation of places people are proud to call home”.

He also explained the Affordable Homes Programme 2021 to 2026 – GOV.UK ( This is “programme information, how to apply for funding or become a Homes England investment or strategic partner”.

He cited the promotion of a more holistic and collaborative approach with a focus on a local approach to people and places. Focusing on regeneration, locally defined and led projects, the partnership of both public and private, small and large housing providers, and the importance of design, quality, and sustainability.

If you are interested in learning more about this webinar, the links to two webinars are below.

These are National Housing Federation – Homelessness – the ‘hidden’ rural crisis and National Housing Federation – Planning – opportunities and obstacles for delivering rural housing.

If you would like to find out more about rural housing in Surrey, please get in touch – email me or call 07874 857638.

Supporting Our Local Communities

As well as working for a charity, some of our team volunteer for other charities and not-for-profit organisations too. During Volunteers Week (1-7 June), we thought that we would share some of our volunteer roles.

Jason Gaskell, our CEO 

I’m a trustee with Surrey Wildlife Trust.  Having previously worked and volunteered for Northumberland Wildlife Trust, I was keen to stay involved in the WT movement when we moved to Surrey, and a Trusteeship allows me to combine personal interest with professional skills from working in the voluntary sector.

I’m also a rugby coach with Guildfordians Rugby Club.  I have coached mixed teams from under 6 to under 11, and then move up to coach an amazing team of U14 Girls.  Seeing them develop their skills and confidence over the season is fantastic, sharing their joy of the game, the pain of their losses and the euphoria of their (many!) wins.  Next season is a whole new challenge as lead coach of the U16 Girls team.  As well as seeing the players develop and grow, there is a fantastic network of coaches to work with, bounce ideas off and socialise with, from teams across Surrey and beyond.

Vicky Turton, our Good Neighbour Schemes Co-Ordinator

As well as helping community groups to set up and run good neighbour schemes, I’m a volunteer for my local scheme too.

I have been a volunteer with WEBCare –  a good neighbour scheme in Bisley since it launched in 1995.  I am on the committee, I answer the phones, and I am a driver with the scheme.

Dianne Roberts, our Community Champions Co-ordinator

I’m a trustee for HomeStart Spelthorne, where I serve as a safeguarding trustee, ensuring the Committee staff and volunteers are up to date with training and are aware of their responsibilities, plus I check our policies and practice re recruitment, supervision etc.

Justine Aldous, our Marketing Manager

I help to promote the activities and events organised by the PTA at my children’s secondary school and I’m also a volunteer moderator for my local community’s Facebook group. Having spent a lot of time promoting the flexibility of volunteering for good neighbour schemes, I have joined Guildford Care as a volunteer driver too.