A RAFT of changes to Purbeck's social housing policies have been introduced by district council bosses.

The scheme, run by Purbeck District Council in conjunction with five local Dorset authorities, is operated using a banding system based on an applicant's circumstances - with each application assessed and put into either the emergency, gold, silver of bronze bands.

PDC housing member Cllr Laura Miller said: "Unfortunately, the district has a small amount of socially rented homes available at any one time, so we have introduced changes to enable us to help people in a fair and effective way."

New qualifying criteria has now been added to the bronze band. This includes households whose property has become unaffordable due to change of circumstances; applicants wishing to join the housing register in order to build their own home on a rural exception site; applicants wanting to join the housing register to be considered for housing provided by a community land trust.

The 'rural sustainability' criteria has also been removed. Up until now, applicants who had lived in or had a connection to a rural parish - but with no current housing need - could join the housing register.

However, people living in Swanage, Wareham and Upton with no current housing need could not put their names on the register.

The scrapping of the 'rural sustainability' criteria has removed this discrepancy, says the council.

Cllr Miller said: "The council's housing team offers advice to help people explore all their options, so if anyone is unsure how they may be affected we would encourage them to get in touch."

A further policy change also relates to rural properties. While priority will still be given to applicants with local connections - providing the property is the size their household requires - if no applicants with local connections and the need for a property of that size place a bid, the property will be offered to applicants with no local connection, or adjacent parishes who have a need for a property of that size.