The national Rural Housing Week to raise awareness of social housing issues in remote areas takes place this week. believe housing looks after some of the most remote social housing in England and is committed to serving rural communities.
The award for the furthest flung homes looked after by believe housing is a tightly fought competition between the villages of Wearhead and Rookhope.
Wearhead, which has a population of 210, is bang in the middle of the North Pennines area of outstanding natural beauty. But it does have the advantage of being on the main road through Weardale, even if it’s almost as close to Penrith in the Lake District as Bishop Auckland. believe housing has four properties in the village, and another dozen in nearby St Johns Chapel.
Rookhope is even more off the beaten track and about 320m above sea level. The village has one pub, one primary school, a village hall, one social club and a population of under 270.
There is one bus service, which runs four times a day during school term time.
There are around 20 believe housing homes in the village, including a pair of new bungalows completed as part of our current new-build programme. The new bungalows were the first social housing to be built in Rookhope for more than 50 years. The village close to the top of the list when the construction programme was being drawn up as a result of work with local councillors and residents.
The remoteness of villages like Wearhead and Rookhope should not be underestimated. “Not that long ago we used to have CB radios in the vans, because there was no phone coverage at all up here.” Says Dave Seal, Maintenance Supervisor at believe housing.
believe housing is also heavily involved in supporting community groups in Weardale. Funding to set up a foodbank for the area, which delivers to the door of those in need as well as offering collections, came from the organisation. Local sports clubs, village halls and schools have also benefited from support. Even Christmas lights in some villages along the dales have been funded by community funding from believe housing.
Chief Executive of believe housing, Bill Fullen, says that the organisation is totally committed to the Weardale area. “The need for genuinely affordable housing in an area like this is never going to be met by the private sector and it’s certainly not diminishing. This is where housing associations really come into their own.
Two new houses sounds like a tiny number, but in some of the communities we serve that could easily be a 10% or even 20% increase in the number of affordable homes. We have to keep our eyes on what is right for each community in the long-term and not go chasing numbers. This is an amazing, rich landscape that needs sensitive development across all tenures.”