Bury St Edmunds: Hitting housing target would boost local economy by £3.7bn
12:00 01 February 2014
Prices in the region’s private rental housing market are growing faster than anywhere else in the country – and the local economy risks losing out on £3.7billion if it fails to reach its housebuilding target.
National Housing Federation chief executive David Orr and Mark Jeffries, vice-chairman of the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), made the startling revelations at a conference in Bury St Edmunds yesterday.
Mr Orr also revealed that house prices in St Edmundsbury were more than 11 times the borough’s average income and that the amount of housing benefit paid to those in work in the east of England had almost doubled since 2009, while the bill for those out of work had remained roughly the same.
He used these facts as a call to councils, LEPs and housebuilders to do more to develop housing in the area and ensure that concerns from residents over planning applications were balanced with the voices of those in need of a decent place to live.
Mr Orr said: “People who say ‘we don’t want more homes to be built’, often people who are, because of the fortunate circumstances of their life, absolutely entitled to make their case, but they are well placed, comfortably positioned in solid secure homes, and articulate.
“We need to ensure that the people who are badly housed, who want to get these jobs but can’t afford to do so, who are not so articulate, have their voices heard too.”
Mr Orr also suggested a new planning system where councillors worked with officers on long-term strategic planning, but decisions on all applications were then taken by council staff.
Janet Elliot is part of the No Adastral New Town campaign, which this year took its battle with Suffolk Coastal over the controversial 2,000-home development in Martlesham Heath to the High Court.
She said: “It’s absolutely about taking each application on its own merit. It’s responding to an identified need rather than political pressure.
“We’ve never campaigned against the provision of new homes. We think if there’s a proven need for new homes in a particular district, that need should be met.
“The thrust of our campaign is that it’s absolutely vital to select the right area for that development.”
Around 100 people from councils, housing associations and LEPs across East Anglia attended yesterday’s housing and economic growth summit at The Apex.
Mr Jeffries said the core strategies of all local authorities across New Anglia LEP’s area, which covers Suffolk and Norfolk, allowed for 100,000 homes before 2026 - a rate of more than 7,000 homes a year.
He added: “Without 100,000 new homes being added to the housing stock, the New Anglia economy, in our view, would under-perform by approximately £3.7billion in terms of gross value.
“To put that another way, that means the average economic value of every new home in New Anglia is around £36,700.
“One of our main concerns is that we need to increase the pace of development. It’s only that way we can stimulate economic growth and create both short and long-term employment.”