Blueprint for 17,000 new homes to be sent to government
- Credit: Archant
A blueprint for future development of more than 17,000 new homes across two Suffolk districts is to be submitted to the Government early in the new year.
But concerns have been raised over some of the new housing allocations and the concentration of homes along the A14 corridor.
Babergh and Mid Suffolk councils held extraordinary full council meetings last week for the final draft of the joint local plan to progress to the next stage.
A six-week period has opened until Christmas Eve for locals to have their say, with those responses then being submitted to the Government alongside the plan itself for examination.
MORE: Delays to Babergh and Mid Suffolk joint local planAn independent planning inspector will then consider the plan and the representations, likely to be in summer 2021, before it returns to the councils for adoption in late 2021 or early 2022.
Independent councillor Clive Arthey, Babergh cabinet member for planning, said: “I have been involved in local government for almost 30 years and this plan is supported by more evidence that we have ever had to support a local plan.
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“The extensive work from officers and councillors has resulted in, what I believe is, the very best plan that we could submit.
“It is a step forward in providing for the existing and future needs of our residents and communities, and I hope it provides comfort that we remain committed to ensuring development in Babergh is suitable and sustainable.
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“I know that how and where development takes place is incredibly important to us all, and can have a significant impact on our facilities and landscape.”
However, some reservations were made about the plan, with reluctant support given so as not to leave the districts exposed to future problems by not approving the document.
The plan gives the councils more power to refuse planning applications not considered suitable or development in areas not listed in the plan, making it a key device in local planning policy.
Councillor Andrew Stringer, from Mid Suffolk’s opposition Green and Liberal Democrat group, said: “This plan contains some of the most up to date policies for achieving not just the housing numbers target, but also the climate and biodiversity challenges that we simply must meet.
“While we welcome the sustainability and wildlife improvements this plan tries to deliver, we have serious concerns about the focus of housing along the A14, with a small handful of villages being asked to accept the majority of housing yet lacking sufficient infrastructure and services needed for sustainability.
“Our group was pleased to be part of the discussions to formulate the updated policies within this document, as our current local plan is considered out of date.
“Our communities have been exposed to development shaped by the bottom line of developers, not the democratically agreed aspirations of communities.”
Some councillors also expressed concerns about some of the land allocations in their wards.
Babergh Green councillor Robert Lindsay said that in Bildeston the “worst possible site has been allocated” while Liberal Democrat David Busby questioned why there were six times the number of allocations around the greater Ipswich area which would support that town, rather than Babergh and Mid Suffolk’s own market towns.
Graham Jones from Beyton Parish Council has questioned the level of communication after the two main sites earmarked in its neighbourhood plan currently in development were not used in the joint local plan, but was only informed nine days before the councils’ meetings when changes could not be made.
MORE: 18,000 new homes needed by 2036 in Babergh and Mid Suffolk“We have spend a lot of time engaging with the community in order to get the real input of the village,” he said. “The concern is that the two sites in the neighbourhood plan the village came up with and would support are not the two sites the planning department came up with [in the joint local plan].”
Work began on the plan in 2016, and previous public consultations have resulted in 14,000 representations having been received to help shape the document.
The original timeline for the work anticipated the plan being adopted in February 2020, but the authorities said a series of delays caused by the snap General Election in 2019 and significant changes to national planning policy in 2018 held the process up.
The latest six week consultation, while open for public responses, is largely aimed at establishing how sound the plan is, but responses will be sent to the Secretary of State.
Councillor David Burn, Mid Suffolk cabinet member for planning, said: “Our joint local plan is a robust and detailed framework for future development in Mid Suffolk. It shows how we propose to achieve the housing target that Government expects from us, protect our environment, address climate change and help enrich biodiversity. It also sets out a strategy for securing the important infrastructure that will be needed to support the housing growth and that of our local economy.
“The Government recently announced its intention to make profound changes to the planning system but how soon they will come into effect is unclear. It is crucial that we submit this joint local plan now in order to create a period of relative stability to help defend our districts from inappropriate development during what may well become a period of considerable change.”
Mr Arthey said that significant changes now would result in “delays measured in years not months” and could leave communities exposed to speculative developers for longer.
Babergh voted by 26 in favour and one against, while Mid Suffolk’s ballot resulted in 27 in favour, three against and two abstentions to the plan progressing.