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How expanding towns are ‘swallowing up’ rural communities

Boris Johnson has been warned of a ballot box backlash amid anger that English villages are being ‘swallowed up’ by sprawling towns.

Planning reforms designed to help the government hit its target of 340,000 new homes a year are still expected to be a significant factor at local elections next month, despite desperate efforts to defuse the issue.

Countryside advocates claim that villages particularly in southern England are losing their identity as they become part of a wider sprawl from towns with profit-hungry developers building on green belt land to reduce their costs.

Concerns are also mounting over a so-called ‘rural flight’ of young people who are being forced to leave villages because of a lack of housing and job opportunities which is ‘hollowing out’ small communities around the UK.

Developments are said to be being passed more easily by councils keen to hit Government targets, which is also resulting in a lack of affordable housing being built in these areas because it is less lucrative for developers.

Conservative elections expert Lord Hayward told MailOnline that Michael Gove had managed to ‘remove the sore’ of planning reforms to some extent since taking responsibility for the policy from Robert Jenrick – who had incurred the wrath of dozens of MPs in traditional heartlands.

However, he cautioned that the political problems were ‘still there’ and in some areas would ‘put the Tories on the defensive’. ‘This is all part of an overhang from Robert Jenrick’s proposals in relation to the home counties, which caused along with HS2 and other issues the Tories dear in Chesham & Amersham,’ he said.

‘It’s part of an ongoing issue for the Tories which has diminished but is still there.’ He added: ‘People react badly to the proposals for their villages and towns to be expanded. The net result is it does put the Tories on the defensive.’

Conservative MP Damian Green told MailOnline: ‘The national targets have put unacceptable pressure on some councils to build in unsuitable places. One solution is to change the planning system so that developers cannot sit on land banks for years, not building fast enough the houses for which they already have planning permission. Hundreds of thousands of new homes could be built on land like this where permission has already been granted.’

Among the areas that has experienced huge recent change is Bicester in Oxfordshire, where the population could double to 50,000 in the next 20 years if 13,000 planned homes are built in the designated ‘garden town’.

New-build estates have been popping up on fields around the town over the past decade, with the latest planned development being a 6,000-home eco-town which will be constructed on what is currently agricultural land.

Hawkwell, which is part of the new site, will sit between Bicester and a picturesque village of 260 people called Bucknell – which locals fear will lose its village character by effectively becoming an extension of Bicester.

And campaigners argue that this is part of a wider problem affecting village life across Britain as the Government targets building 300,000 homes a year in England by the mid-2020s – although the National Housing Federation and the charity Crisis say the actual figure required is 340,000 a year, of which 145,000 should be affordable. 

Some 243,775 new homes were built in England in 2021 – near the record level of 255,206 hit in 2019. But analysis by estate agents Savills in recent weeks has found that ‘annual delivery of new homes has now fallen for two consecutive quarters, suggesting the recovery has already peaked and supply is on a downward trajectory’. 

Bucknell resident John Kightley, who has lived there for 53 years, told MailOnline: ‘It’s a wonderful little community of about 100 houses. Things have changed – we haven’t got the shop anymore, but it’s a still a local community.

‘We’re on a road now that’s already a rat run. Another 3,000 houses – that won’t improve it. The traffic through the village is one of our biggest worries, because they want to build more houses than was originally planned.’

He added that residents were also concerned by ‘huge developments’ towards Aylesbury – a town 20 miles away – such as factories, warehouses and distribution units, which benefit from the area’s central location.

Boris Johnson has been warned of a ballot box backlash amid anger that English villages are being ‘swallowed up’ by sprawling towns. Among the areas that has experienced huge recent change is Bicester in Oxfordshire (pictured), where the population could double to 50,000 in the next 20 years if 13,000 planned homes are built in the designated ‘garden town’. The map shows how ‘urban sprawl’ has already changed the face of the former market town over the past decade – and seen it encroach on surrounding villages, practically swallowing them up as it expands 

Bucknell (pictured), is an idyllic village near to Bicester which is under threat from the sprawling proposed development

Bucknell (pictured), is an idyllic village near to Bicester which is under threat from the sprawling proposed development 

The new development of Hawkwell will sit between Bicester and the picturesque village of 260 people, Bucknell. The  village,  pictured on the far left, would be essentially connected to the nearby town of Bicester, right, by the proposals. The 'Stop Hawkwell' group has been set up to oppose the development

The new development of Hawkwell will sit between Bicester and the picturesque village of 260 people, Bucknell. The  village,  pictured on the far left, would be essentially connected to the nearby town of Bicester, right, by the proposals. The ‘Stop Hawkwell’ group has been set up to oppose the development 

The village of Bucknell in Oxfordshire is pictured shortly after the end of the Second World War in 1946. Many generations of the same family have lived in the village

The village of Bucknell in Oxfordshire is pictured shortly after the end of the Second World War in 1946. Many generations of the same family have lived in the village 

This graphic shows some housing developments in Bicester which are now being built and pushing the town closer to villages

This graphic shows some housing developments in Bicester which are now being built and pushing the town closer to villages

The charming village of Stratton Audley is another close to Bicester which could be threatened by development as more and more homes are built

The charming village of Stratton Audley is another close to Bicester which could be threatened by development as more and more homes are built 

The village of Launton has also been edged closer to the town as more and more homes are built

The village of Launton has also been edged closer to the town as more and more homes are built

The charming village of Chesterton is another threatened by the development of Bicester as the town sprawls into surrounding countryside

The charming village of Chesterton is another threatened by the development of Bicester as the town sprawls into surrounding countryside

MILTON KEYNES AND BLETCHLEY: Buckinghamshire in 2000 (left) and 2021 (right) – with the scale of development revealing how countryside around the likes of Upper Weald (in the west) and Broughton (in the north east) is disappearing

Upper Weald is an example of a Buckinghamshire village close to Milton Keynes where village life is coming under threat

Upper Weald is an example of a Buckinghamshire village close to Milton Keynes where village life is coming under threat

Shenley Church End is a village near Milton Keynes which has seen a large amount of housing built around it in recent years

Shenley Church End is a village near Milton Keynes which has seen a large amount of housing built around it in recent years 

This map produced by Savills looks at where housing delivery is meeting targets - with white areas saying it is passed, and pink/purple areas where it has failed. The data is based on the 'Housing Delivery Test' data released by the Government

This map produced by Savills looks at where housing delivery is meeting targets – with white areas saying it is passed, and pink/purple areas where it has failed. The data is based on the ‘Housing Delivery Test’ data released by the Government

Net additions per 1,000 dwellings in Britain in 2020/21, and the change for each local authority district on the previous year

Net additions per 1,000 dwellings in Britain in 2020/21, and the change for each local authority district on the previous year

This graphic from the Government shows the UK's designated garden towns - one of which is Bicester - and garden cities

This graphic from the Government shows the UK’s designated garden towns – one of which is Bicester – and garden cities

Another local, Heather Lawson, who has lived in the village for seven years, told the Bicester Advertiser: ‘At the moment, it’s a proposal, but if we don’t make a big enough protest it will be too late – it will go through planning. There’s this feeling of ‘let’s build as much as we can’ and they’re not looking 20 or 30 years into the future.

She added: ‘In the meantime our village is already becoming a rat run. I’m sure something will go through, but at least reduce the number of homes. We can’t let them walk all over us. A village like ours is just going to be swallowed up. This isn’t going to be a village, it’s going to be an extension of Bicester.’ 

Asked about the development, a Cherwell District Council spokesman told MailOnline: ‘We can confirm that a planning application has been received from Hallam Land Management for up to 3,100 homes and associated land uses. The application site includes part of the North West Bicester development site.

‘The application has been advertised to receive public comments. It is only at an early stage of consideration and therefore officers are not in a position to offer observations. 

Residents of the Oxfordshire village of Bucknell are up in arms about the development which will see 3,100 new homes built

Residents of the Oxfordshire village of Bucknell are up in arms about the development which will see 3,100 new homes built

Hawkwell Village is part of the expansion plans for the Oxfordshire town of Bicester, with the site shown in the red line area

Hawkwell Village is part of the expansion plans for the Oxfordshire town of Bicester, with the site shown in the red line area

Notices on a gate next to a field close to Bucknell, where villagers are concerned about the proposed Hawkwell development

Notices on a gate next to a field close to Bucknell, where villagers are concerned about the proposed Hawkwell development 

Local residents in Bucknell are very concerned about the impact of the proposed development on their village life

Local residents in Bucknell are very concerned about the impact of the proposed development on their village life

Hawkwell, which is part of the new eco-town, will sit between Bicester and the picturesque village of Bucknell (above)

Hawkwell, which is part of the new eco-town, will sit between Bicester and the picturesque village of Bucknell (above)

Hawkwell Village is part of the new Bicester 'eco town' site, which will sit between Bicester and a village called Bucknell

Hawkwell Village is part of the new Bicester ‘eco town’ site, which will sit between Bicester and a village called Bucknell

‘The application will need to be presented to the council’s planning committee in due course, together with all consultation responses and representations received.’

Hallam Land Management has been contacted for comment by MailOnline. A spokesman for the company told the Bicester Advertiser last month: ‘We have created a consultation website to give people easy access to the materials, with information summarised in consultation boards, and which was used for a virtual exhibition ahead of the submission of the application. 

‘This also hosts a web-link to all of the planning documentation on the Council’s website, where people can submit comments, which will be analysed and considered by Hallam and separately by Cherwell District Council, as the Local Planning Authority.’

Campaigners say greenfield development is on the rise while brownfield development is dropping – despite there being space available for 1.3 million new homes in swathes of previously developed sites across the country. 

Another village near Bicester that could potentially have its Oxfordshire countryside lifestyle threatened is Stratton Audley

Another village near Bicester that could potentially have its Oxfordshire countryside lifestyle threatened is Stratton Audley

A picturesque road in the village of Stratton Audley, which is another village near Bicester which could be threatened

A picturesque road in the village of Stratton Audley, which is another village near Bicester which could be threatened

The village lifestyle in places such as Stratton Audley could be threatened by the ever-expanding Bicester in Oxfordshire

The village lifestyle in places such as Stratton Audley could be threatened by the ever-expanding Bicester in Oxfordshire

St Mary's Church in the Oxfordshire village of Launton - one of the rural areas that is threatened by Bicester's development

St Mary’s Church in the Oxfordshire village of Launton – one of the rural areas that is threatened by Bicester’s development

Flanders Close in Bicester in 2011
Flanders Close in Bicester now

Flanders Close in Bicester (left) was fields as recently as 2011 but is now a housing development called Stratton Park (right)

Braeburn Avenue in Bicester in 2011
Braeburn Avenue in Bicester now

The Elmsbrook housing development on the outskirts of Bicester (right) was also fields as recently as 2011 (left)

Middleton Stoney Road in Bicester in 2009
Middleton Stoney Road in Bicester now

The Kingsmere development off Middleton Stoney Road in Bicester (right) has also replaced what were fields in 2009 (left)

Tom Fyans, director of campaigns and policy at countryside charity CPRE, previously known as the Campaign to Protect Rural England, told MailOnline: ‘Most developments are getting the go ahead regardless of whether they’re in the best place, because it’s driven by targets.

‘Villages are being swallowed up and losing their distinctiveness and their sense of identity through sprawl from some of the bigger towns. So we are seeing that as a pattern and it is very difficult when the underlying drive of that is to build housing to meet targets, regardless of where that is.

‘It’s not really working for a lot of rural areas because they’re not getting the housing they need – which is affordable housing. None of that is being achieved through this approach – it’s just volume.’

He said that the South East and South were the worst affected areas, but similar trends were also now being seen in the South West where the market has been ‘really overheating in terms of the developments where they think they’ll get the highest price’.  

One of the many constructions going up in Bicester at the moment which has seen a surge in housing in recent years

One of the many constructions going up in Bicester at the moment which has seen a surge in housing in recent years

Another of the housing developments being built in Bicester in Oxfordshire where show homes are available to view

Another of the housing developments being built in Bicester in Oxfordshire where show homes are available to view

A construction site on the outskirts of Bicester where 13,000 homes are planned to be built in the designated 'garden town'

A construction site on the outskirts of Bicester where 13,000 homes are planned to be built in the designated ‘garden town’

Mr Fyans added that campaigners are particular concerned about how rapidly-increasing urban areas are affecting village life.

He said: ‘The first thing that goes is their sense of pride and where they’re from in the village and the sense of distinctiveness. If they’re absorbed into a wider sprawl, they don’t feel part of that wider town, so they lose their sense of identity. Some of these families will have lived in these areas for a long time. It basically becomes urbanised.’

Mr Fyans said many of the developments studied by the CPRE were ‘car-dependent’ with poor accessibility.

He continued: ‘The more rural the area, the more likely you’re going to get poor design on all fronts, but particularly on car dependence. These identikit villages don’t really allow for the local vernacular and the area, they’re not in the right place.’

This view from Broughton near Milton Keynes was just fields in 2010 (left) but is now a housing development (right)

A scene in Broughton near Milton Keynes shows a similar before (left) and after (right) view following housing construction  

The CPRE warned four months ago that there has been a continued increase in the amount of brownfield land suitable for housing across the country – but planning permission has stagnated, with long term trends pointing to rising use of greenfield sites. 

It said the proportion of brownfield housing units with planning permission is the lowest on record – down to 44 per cent in 2021 from 53 per cent in 2020 – while the actual number, at 506,000, is the lowest for four years.

The CRPE said there is space for 500,000 new homes in London and the South East on brownfield land. Across the North West, the West Midlands and Yorkshire and Humber there is space for 375,000 homes on brownfield.

And Mr Fyans said: ‘Particularly using brownfield land you can build higher density there, with still very spacious building standards. Brownfield has usually got better transport links and hubs.’ 

Cambridge is another location in the Home Counties that has seen rapid development between 2002 (left) and present (right)

The village of Trumpington on the outskirts of Cambridge has seen rapid development from 2008 (left) to present (right)

Another part of Cambridge that has seen major development in recent years is Barnwell – shown in 2008 (left) and 2021 (right)

Grantchester - the location of the ITV drama - is among the villages near Cambridge where rural life is under threat

Grantchester – the location of the ITV drama – is among the villages near Cambridge where rural life is under threat

Speaking about the issues facing the Government, he said: ‘Quite a lot of the opposition to the planning reforms that the government are beginning to backtrack on was due to concerns among Conservative backbenchers alarmed at the sheer scale of developments coming through in their areas.

‘What we’ve been saying is you need to rebalance the economy. both within the urban and the rural there is a bit more balance and levelling up. you need to incentivise in the midlands and north – and stop overheating areas that most people can’t afford to buy in anyway.

‘It’s politically difficult because the other element of that is the kind of housing that the National Housing Federation are talking about which we often support is much more about affordable housing, but there’s obviously not as much profit in that for developers.

‘But the government have never provided enough support for social housing to be built. I don’t think there’s votes in that. But there’s a younger demographic they need to start appealing to.’

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has produced this map of brownfield housing capacity across England

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has produced this map of brownfield housing capacity across England

The percentage of brownfield area being developed into houses (top) and then green belt land being developed (bottom)

The percentage of brownfield area being developed into houses (top) and then green belt land being developed (bottom)

This Office for National Statistics graph shows a cluster of high-growth population towns stretching north from London

This Office for National Statistics graph shows a cluster of high-growth population towns stretching north from London

He also spoke of the ‘rural flight for young people in housing and employment opportunities, adding: ‘They can’t stary in the villages they were born in because there isn’t housing. That’s hollowing out the rural communities. we’re finding the death of the village is really when the young people are moving away.’

In another report, the CPRE said pressure on green belt land had quadrupled since 2013. A year ago, it found 257,944 homes were proposed to be built on land removed from the Green Belt – a 475 per cent increase on 2013. 

A spokesman for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities told MailOnline: ‘Protecting cherished countryside and green spaces is our priority – our £1.5 billion Brownfield Fund will help deliver new homes on previously developed land and support councils to level up and regenerate their communities.

‘Councils, not government, set their own housing targets. Our guidance should be considered alongside local constraints including impact on the environment.’

It is also understood that Ministers are keeping the planning system under review – including specifically looking at property construction in rural communities, and any changes to this will be announced in due course.

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Five climb the property ladder! Famous Five-style 17th century manor house with secret room, spyhole and fascinating history goes up for sale for £3.2m

A Famous Five-style manor house with a secret 17th Century ‘panic room’ and tiny spy-hole built into the staircase has gone on sale for £3.2million.

The historic seven-bedroom house started life as a coaching inn just after the English Civil War, but has also been visited by royalty and appeared in a children’s novel.

Among its quirkier features is a secret hiding space dating from more than 300 years ago, which can be accessed via a hidden panel under the stairs, leading to a tiny room beneath. 

Owners could monitor who came to their front door through a tiny spy-hole built into the staircase.

The property at Peppard Common, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, has four reception rooms, more than three acres of wraparound gardens and paddocks and is on the edge of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

A Famous Five-style manor house at Peppard Common, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, with a secret 17th Century 'panic room' and spyhole in the staircase has gone on sale for £3.2million

A Famous Five-style manor house at Peppard Common, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, with a secret 17th Century ‘panic room’ and spyhole in the staircase has gone on sale for £3.2million

One of two dining rooms in the property, which was visited in the early 1900s by the future King Edward VII and his wife, Queen Alexandra

One of two dining rooms in the property, which was visited in the early 1900s by the future King Edward VII and his wife, Queen Alexandra

During the early 1900s it was visited by the future King Edward VII with his wife, Queen Alexandra, when they were the Prince and Princess of Wales

The then owner was a lady-in-waiting to the royal family.

It also featured in The White Witch, a 1958 novel by acclaimed children’s writer Elizabeth Goudge. 

In it she describes her character looking out of the house’s south and east windows saying ‘she could see far over the fields to the sunrise’.

The new owners will still have stunning views, which take in local countryside, as well as the village cricket pitch.

Inside, the house is filled with original features, including wooden panelling in the entrance hall, beamed ceilings, flint walls and leaded light windows.

The property has an entrance hall, kitchen, two dining rooms, family room, lounge, utility and laundry room and boot room on the ground floor with a cellar below.

Upstairs is an open-plan study area, seven bedrooms and two bathrooms.

Outside, the property has around 3.2 acres of wraparound gardens and paddocks and a triple garage with courtyard parking area and a gravel drive.

The owner said: ‘The house itself is steeped in history as it originally dates back to 1688, just a few decades after the Civil War, and interestingly it has a 17th century panic room hidden behind a section of the original wood panelling.

‘There are stories of visits from royalty – it was owned by a lady-in-waiting in the early years of the 20th century – and it featured heavily in a historical novel called The White Witch, written by Elizabeth Goudge who, many years ago, lived on the other side of the common.

A secret 'panic' room dating back more than 300 years has a tiny spy-hole built into the staircase of the historic property

A secret ‘panic’ room dating back more than 300 years has a tiny spy-hole built into the staircase of the historic property

The property has four reception rooms, more than three acres of wraparound gardens and paddocks and is on the edge of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

The property has four reception rooms, more than three acres of wraparound gardens and paddocks and is on the edge of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

‘However, for us it was simply a lovely family home, very spacious and bright, and hugely characterful. 

‘My parents made a number of improvements to it over the years, but there’s definitely lots of scope for the new owners to come in and put their own stamp on it.’

Robert Cable, from Fine & Country, who is handling the sale, said the property belonged to a family of five who had bought it 50 years ago.

He said: ‘They have loved living here and raising their family in this house, it is filled with happy memories, but it’s time for them to move on and pass it to new custodians who will appreciate it as much as they have.

‘It would be perfect for a family that wanted their children to grow up in idyllic rural surroundings.

‘Outside there is so much beautiful space to enjoy, or even keep a pony; inside there is so much space and so many nooks and crannies for children to hide, along with the secret room – it’s like something from the Famous Five novels.’

Inside, the house is filled with original features, including wooden panelling in the entrance hall, beamed ceilings, flint walls and leaded light windows

Inside, the house is filled with original features, including wooden panelling in the entrance hall, beamed ceilings, flint walls and leaded light windows

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European Startup Ecosystems Awash With Gulf Investment – Here Are Some Of The Top Investors

European Startup Ecosystem Getting Flooded With Gulf Investments

The Voice Of EU | In recent years, European entrepreneurs seeking capital infusion have widened their horizons beyond the traditional American investors, increasingly turning their gaze towards the lucrative investment landscape of the Gulf region. With substantial capital reservoirs nestled within sovereign wealth funds and corporate venture capital entities, Gulf nations have emerged as compelling investors for European startups and scaleups.

According to comprehensive data from Dealroom, the influx of investment from Gulf countries into European startups soared to a staggering $3 billion in 2023, marking a remarkable 5x surge from the $627 million recorded in 2018.

This substantial injection of capital, accounting for approximately 5% of the total funding raised in the region, underscores the growing prominence of Gulf investors in European markets.

Particularly noteworthy is the significant support extended to growth-stage companies, with over two-thirds of Gulf investments in 2023 being directed towards funding rounds exceeding $100 million. This influx of capital provides a welcome boost to European companies grappling with the challenge of securing well-capitalized investors locally.

Delving deeper into the landscape, Sifted has identified the most active Gulf investors in European startups over the past two years.

Leading the pack is Aramco Ventures, headquartered in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Bolstered by a substantial commitment, Aramco Ventures boasts a $1.5 billion sustainability fund, alongside an additional $4 billion allocated to its venture capital arm, positioning it as a formidable player with a total investment capacity of $7 billion by 2027. With a notable presence in 17 funding rounds, Aramco Ventures has strategically invested in ventures such as Carbon Clean Solutions and ANYbotics, aligning with its focus on businesses that offer strategic value.

Following closely is Mubadala Capital, headquartered in Abu Dhabi, UAE, with an impressive tally of 13 investments in European startups over the past two years. Backed by the sovereign wealth fund Mubadala Investment Company, Mubadala Capital’s diverse investment portfolio spans private equity, venture capital, and alternative solutions. Notable investments include Klarna, TIER, and Juni, reflecting its global investment strategy across various sectors.

Ventura Capital, based in Dubai, UAE, secured its position as a key player with nine investments in European startups. With a presence in Dubai, London, and Tokyo, Ventura Capital boasts an international network of limited partners and a sector-agnostic investment approach, contributing to its noteworthy investments in companies such as Coursera and Spotify.

Qatar Investment Authority, headquartered in Doha, Qatar, has made significant inroads into the European startup ecosystem with six notable investments. As the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar, QIA’s diversified portfolio spans private and public equity, infrastructure, and real estate, with strategic investments in tech startups across healthcare, consumer, and industrial sectors.

MetaVision Dubai, a newcomer to the scene, has swiftly garnered attention with six investments in European startups. Focusing on seed to Series A startups in the metaverse and Web3 space, MetaVision raised an undisclosed fund in 2022, affirming its commitment to emerging technologies and innovative ventures.

Investcorp, headquartered in Manama, Bahrain, has solidified its presence with six investments in European startups. With a focus on mid-sized B2B businesses, Investcorp’s diverse investment strategies encompass private equity, real estate, infrastructure, and credit management, contributing to its notable investments in companies such as Terra Quantum and TruKKer.

Chimera Capital, based in Abu Dhabi, UAE, rounds off the list with four strategic investments in European startups. As part of a prominent business conglomerate, Chimera Capital leverages its global reach and sector-agnostic approach to drive investments in ventures such as CMR Surgical and Neat Burger.

In conclusion, the burgeoning influx of capital from Gulf investors into European startups underscores the region’s growing appeal as a vibrant hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. With key players such as Aramco Ventures, Mubadala Capital, and Ventura Capital leading the charge, European startups are poised to benefit from the strategic investments and partnerships forged with Gulf investors, propelling them towards sustained growth and success in the global market landscape.


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Can’t Afford A House In UK? Move To Germany!

Grand Designs star Kevin McCloud has told first time buyers if they can’t afford to buy a house ‘move to Germany’.

The TV presenter advised young people looking to get on the property ladder to abandon their hopes of buying a house in the UK and instead ‘move to another country where the housing market is healthy’.

He told the news website JOE that almost every other North European country and Canada have got ‘really healthy markets, lots of diverse opportunities, lots of diverse offers and it isn’t hugely expensive’.

The 64-year-old said: ‘My advice is move to Germany, maybe that’s the way forward.’

McCloud also took aim at ‘immoral’ housing developers, who he claims now make on average £68,000 profit per house or per flat, compared to 2009, when the figure was ten times less.

Have YOU moved to Germany? Email chris.matthews@mailonline.co.uk

Houses in Germany costs just £232,941 on average. Meanwhile, a pint of beer costs just £2.14 in Germany, while on average in England a pint is £4.21

Houses in Germany costs just £232,941 on average. Meanwhile, a pint of beer costs just £2.14 in Germany, while on average in England a pint is £4.21

Grand Designs star Kevin McCloud who has told first time buyers if they can't afford to buy a house 'move to Germany'

Grand Designs star Kevin McCloud who has told first time buyers if they can’t afford to buy a house ‘move to Germany’

The TV presenter (pictured) advised young people looking to 'move to another country where the housing market is healthy'

The TV presenter (pictured) advised young people looking to ‘move to another country where the housing market is healthy’

First-time buyers purchased 33% of homes sold in the UK so far this year, marking an all-time high

First-time buyers purchased 33% of homes sold in the UK so far this year, marking an all-time high

Houses of a residential area are seen from above in Frankfurt, Germany (File image)

Houses of a residential area are seen from above in Frankfurt, Germany (File image)

McCloud also took aim at 'immoral' housing developers, who he claims now make on average £68,000 profit per house or per flat, compared to 2009, when the figure was ten times less. Pictured: Homes along a street in London (File image)

McCloud also took aim at ‘immoral’ housing developers, who he claims now make on average £68,000 profit per house or per flat, compared to 2009, when the figure was ten times less. Pictured: Homes along a street in London (File image)

He claimed the average profit ‘big housing developers’ now make every time they sell a house or flat was ‘about £68,000’, ten times what it was in 2009.

McCloud added: ‘They’ve shifted their focus from volume and meeting government targets to the profit they deliver to their shareholders.

‘Persimmon, the year before last made £1.1 billion of profit for their shareholders, 25 per cent of their turnover.

‘I’ve only got one word for it and I think it’s immoral.’

Speaking about the state of the UK housing market, McCloud said: ‘I look at the UK market and I see nothing good here.

‘I look at what’s happening in Germany, Holland, Netherlands, Denmark, Scandinavia, I look at other, almost every other North European country and Canada – they’ve got really healthy markets, lots of diverse opportunities, lots of diverse offers and it isn’t hugely expensive.’

Foreigners can buy properties in Germany with relative ease.

Even since Brexit, people from non-EU countries can borrow up to 60 per cent mortgages.

Not all banks offer expats mortgages. DKB and Santander are two that do but having even a temporary residence may improve a person’s chances.

An extensive report by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) concluded that Britain’s development sector is ‘warped by decades of housing market volatility, the departure of local authorities from the housebuilding sphere, and cuts to capital grant that collectively could have insulated the development market from significant shocks’.

The report claims that ‘the UK has both a pro-cyclical housing and development marke’.

The IPPR said: 'Germany has traditionally kept much tighter controls on mortgage lending, meaning that in order to access home ownership, German households have had to save up for longer periods of time than their British counterparts'

The IPPR said: ‘Germany has traditionally kept much tighter controls on mortgage lending, meaning that in order to access home ownership, German households have had to save up for longer periods of time than their British counterparts’

House prices in Germany have historically been far more stable than those in Britain

House prices in Germany have historically been far more stable than those in Britain

England's trend of ownership is in stark contrast to Germany, where many more people rent

England’s trend of ownership is in stark contrast to Germany, where many more people rent

In Germany, the professional sector of people and companies that own property to let it out, is much more invested in the market (37 per cent) than in the UK (18 per cent)

In Germany, the professional sector of people and companies that own property to let it out, is much more invested in the market (37 per cent) than in the UK (18 per cent)

Traditionally, Germany has a much higher rate of housebuilding compared to the UK

Traditionally, Germany has a much higher rate of housebuilding compared to the UK

It added: ‘By contrast, Germany is in a stronger position: its mortgage market has been more tightly regulated and consequently its market (and economy) is less vulnerable to economic downturns; and housing construction is undertaken by a far greater number of actors, including large housebuilders but also, crucially, many smaller, regionally based actors and a significant not-for-profit sector (both within and outside public ownership).

‘The two countries utilise the powers of government in quite different ways. In Germany, although private enterprise is crucial in housing finance, housing development and management of stock, the state, locally and nationally, plays a far more ‘interventionist’ role – in regulation (for instance, of rents and of the mortgage market), in land assembly, and in housing development itself (albeit often through locally owned companies).

‘However, in the UK, although the parameters of policy are set by government, the trend is towards stepping back the role of the state in housing provision, and then becoming active when markets cannot achieve satisfactory outcomes (for instance by providing mortgage guarantees, or through the provision of housing benefit to households unable to afford their rent).’

The latest Nationwide house price index showed house prices fell slightly in March, with a 0.2 per cent decline in the average property value.

The monthly decline was down to seasonal adjustment – which aims to smooth out months that are typically more and less active – whereas the non-adjusted average house price actually rose slightly from £260,420 in February to £261,14 in March.

It means the typical home, according to Nationwide’s data, has edged up 1.6 per cent annually, with headline figures dragged back by southern England’s stuttering property market.

On the same day, Halifax also reported property prices fell in March, reflecting the first monthly fall since September 2023.

The major mortgage lender revealed the average home price fell 1 per cent last month, following five consecutive months of rises.

Despite reports’ focus on headline house price figures, the UK housing market doesn’t just move as one.

A graph showing the average percentage growth in in house prices across the UK

A graph showing the average percentage growth in in house prices across the UK

This map of annual house price changes across the UK shows the North-South divide. House prices are rising in the north and falling in the south

This map of annual house price changes across the UK shows the North-South divide. House prices are rising in the north and falling in the south

It is made up of thousands of local markets that will all be performing differently from one another.

These differences can even be seen at a regional level where there is evidence of a North-South divide opening up. Prices are generally rising in the North and falling in the South.

The average house price during the first three months of 2024 in Northern Ireland, for example, is up 4.6 per cent year-on-year, according to Nationwide.

Prices in Scotland are 3.7 per cent higher over the past three months than they were during the same period in 2023.

And in the North of England the average home is up 4 per cent in the first three months of this year compared to the same period last year.

Prices in the South West are down 1.7 per cent compared to this time last year and prices in East Anglia are 1.3 per cent lower.

Housing experts have claimed that ‘predatory’ investment funds are taking advantage of the British housing market, keeping families paying rent for longer.

There was £1.3billion of private investment in British new builds last year and almost two fifths came from American funds.

Housing expert David Hall told MailOnline: ‘It’s no surprise at all that it’s a business model for a lot of the funds and pension funds and gives them some semblance of certainty and assurance.

‘It is going to price people out of the market. These are investment forums that are essentially vultures. They’re not social housing buddies. They’re not charities. They’re predators.

‘They’re doing nothing wrong. They’re allowed to do it. The market is wide open for predators to come in, wide open for the market to be manipulated.

Housing charity Acorn’s chief Nick Ballard told MailOnline: ‘Britain’s housing crisis should be a source of national shame.

‘Rising homelessness, 1.3 million families on council housing waiting lists and millions condemned to living in poor quality, insecure and expensive private rented accommodation are problems having a very real negative impact on people’s lives, health and on society as a whole.

‘House prices are out of reach for many and have been for years. Rising rents and the cost of living crisis mean people are finding it harder and harder to save to put down a deposit.

‘Policies of successive Governments have led to 1.5 million council houses sold or demolished and not replaced, so these are no longer a viable option for most.

‘House building alone, particularly build-to-rent properties which will siphon money to US investment companies, will not solve the housing crisis.

‘The Government must embark on a serious building programme for social homes, to address the shortage of housing, to bring down rental prices and to provide safe, secure and stable homes that can become the foundation of happy and healthy lives.’

As the average price of a London home nears the £1million mark, thousands of homeowners are ditching the capital.

Have YOU moved to Germany?

Instead of buying in London, homeowners are flocking to more affordable towns that are often in the north of Britain, MailOnline previously revealed.

Schemes like the Help To Buy ISA may have worked a decade ago but since savers can only receive a government bonus if they buy under £450,001, resources such as this have also been priced out.

The average house in the capital costs £733,000 but the average London salary is only £44,000 and most mortgages are capped at 4.5 times that, amounting to just £198,000.

The cheapest place to buy a home is in Middlehaven (TS2), in North Yorkshire, where an average house costs just £49,833.

In fact, Yorkshire postcodes make up the top four cheapest places to buy, with Bradford (BD1), Middlesbrough (TS1) and Brambles Farm (TS3) all coming in with prices under £85,000.

Shildon (DL4), in County Durham is the fifth cheapest, with homes selling for an average of just £86,993.

Linz Darlington, the boss of leasehold extension experts Homehold, told MailOnline: ‘You can seek a better and more affordable quality of life elsewhere.

‘Greater flexibility around working from home has made making a cross-country move more accessible for many.’

Yet while many people are considering leaving the capital, not all postcodes outside of London are as affordable.

In fact, some are even approaching London property prices.

Cobham (KT11), in Surrey, was the most dear, with the average home selling for a shopping £1.4million.

Close behind was Beaconsfield (HP9), in Buckinghamshire, where homes go for £1.3million.

Mr Darlington added: ‘Increasingly buyers are looking for property outside of London and the South East — and so they should be.

‘While these areas may be the preference of many, as a proposition they are clearly overpriced.

‘Leasehold flats have historically been the ”first rung on the ladder” for many house-buyers in London and the South East, but constant woes from cladding issues, outrageous service charges and spiralling ground rents make these an ever less attractive proposition.

‘Issues with flat ownership are compounded by the fact the age of first time buyers has been increasing, which means people are needing for larger, family friendly properties for their first homes.’


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