RURAL areas of Northumberland are facing a “desperate” need for social housing, according to the Northumberland’s council leader.

Members of the council’s ruling cabinet were told that there were issues in the west and north of the county, where the likes of greenbelts and AONB land made it more difficult to get larger housing developments through the planning process.

The cabinet had been discussing a report on the council’s progress in meeting its three corporate targets – tackling inequalities, providing value for money and driving economic growth.

Deputy leader Councillor Richard Wearmouth said the report was full of “really good news” that the council should “celebrate”.

But leader Cllr Glen Sanderson said: “I think we would be wrong to not highlight the fact that there are challenges. We are tackling these, but there are some areas we would like to do more in.

“One area in particular is around delivering the amount of affordable homes. It is not for the want of trying, but there’s delay in the delivery of affordable homes.”

Cabinet member for Environment, Cllr Colin Horncastle, explained the situation further. He said: “I don’t have the exact figure to hand, but we have delivered over 1,700 affordable homes since 2017.

“The problem we have is in the west and in the north, in the rural areas. We have planning issues, we have got the AONB and greenbelts which make affordable housing very difficult.

“Rented accommodation in the private sector is so expensive. We are trying.

“We have hit some areas very well recently – there was a big scheme in Bellingham with 40 affordable homes built. However, in areas like mine in South Tynedale, we’re trying. There is desperate need.

“It is not for the want of trying, but there are hurdles.”

Elsewhere, there was praise for the county’s schools – 94 per cent of which are now rated good or outstanding by the education watchdog Ofsted. This is 4 per cent above the national average and marks a significant improvement since the Conservative administration came to office in 2017.

Cllr Sanderson was also pleased with the work that had been done to tackle inequalities. Speaking off the back of the recent Inequalities Summit, he said: “All I can say is thank you to all of the teams who have been tackling inequalities.

“We’re getting there, we're starting to get there. I’m very proud of our conference which was hailed by everybody there as the right way forward and involved everybody working to tackle inequalities.”