POLITICAL journalist Elinor Goodman has been given the deadline of next March to produce a report on affordable rural housing.

But unlike the many deadlines she has had to work to previously, this one is not for a newspaper or even for Channel 4 News where she was political editor for many years.

Mrs Goodman, 57, has been appointed chairman of a new government commission set up to identify practical ways in which affordable homes can be provided in rural areas.

The government has chosen her to head its new Affordable Rural Housing Commission.

It will have to report back to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) by next March.

Environment secretary Margaret Beckett said: "The availability of rural housing is the key issue for people living and working in rural areas, which is why the government made a commitment in its rural manifesto to seek out practical and innovative solutions, based on robust evidence.

"Without prejudging this work it is already clear that while the causes and experience of a lack of affordable housing are very similar in urban and rural areas, the solutions for rural communities have to be tailored to take account, for example, of the environmental qualities of the countryside, and the higher unit costs of development."

Mrs Goodman, who retired from Channel 4 News in July, was formerly a trustee of the Wiltshire Community Foundation and has been a trustee of the Rowntree Reform Trust.

She told the Gazette she realised the homes commission was one of the toughest tasks handed out to her over a long career reporting on political issues.

Mrs Goodman has lived in Oare for ten years and had previously lived in Ramsbury since 1984.

She is studying every report on housing that she can get her hands on and is working closely with officers in Defra and the ODPM.

Mrs Goodman made it clear that she had agreed to head the rural housing commission because she was aware of the vital need for affordable homes in the country."I wanted to give something back to the community," she said.

Jim Knight, the Minister for Rural Affairs, rang Mrs Goodman and asked her if she would head the rural housing commission.

Mrs Goodman said her brief was not about the local housing need in the Pewsey Vale but to generate a picture of what was needed nationally."

She said she was impressed by what was already being done to provide affordable homes: "I was amazed by how much was being done and by what had been done."

Mrs Goodman said she accepted it was too late in the case of some villages to provide affordable homes to prevent local families moving out or the closure of the village pubs and shops.

"A lot of villages have already effectively become middle class ghettos," she said.