Big debate over growth of east Suffolk market town – with three options on agenda

An aerial view showing The Layers at Saxmundham - two possible development schemes have been brought

An aerial view showing The Layers at Saxmundham - two possible development schemes have been brought forward for the site as part of the town's future growth Picture: MIKE PAGE - Credit: Archant

People in an east Suffolk market town are being asked how much their community should grow – with some suggestions that around 1,250 new homes should be built.

Saxmundham is facing choices over its future with Suffolk Coastal looking at its expansion and town councillors having launched a Neighbourhood Plan (NP) project for the next 18 years.

In the past few years the town has seen around 500 homes granted approval, and 15-plus potential new housing sites have recently been put forward for extra homes, including using all the farmland between Saxmundham and Benhall Green.

Tomorrow – Wednesday, June 27 – the first in a series of meetings is taking place to seek the public’s views on housing and a range of other issues.

Jeremy Smith, NP steering group chairman, said the biggest issue was how big people wanted to see the town become.

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He said: “The district council is preparing its new Local Plan, and they will soon be setting new ‘housing targets’ for the area’s towns and villages between now and 2036.

“Many people in Saxmundham feel we have had a lot of new housing in recent years without adequate planning, and without the necessary social and physical infrastructure being put in place.

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“But it is clear that better services and facilities will depend on our town continuing to grow. The issue is – by how much, over the coming two decades?”

Three potential futures have been suggested for people to debate. One imagines substantial growth, 1,250 new homes and 3,000 extra people, new school and health centre, bypass to Leiston; another keeps the town separate from Benhall and Kelsale with around 800 new homes for 1,800 extra people up Church Hill to the brow of the hill, while others were built on part of the Layers.

The third scenario is called ‘steady state Saxmundham’ which keeps its historic market town character, adding around 300 homes and increasing the population by about 750, but unlikely to attract investment to improve its infrastructure and facilities.

The first meeting to discuss housing is tomorrow at 7pm at the Market Hall, High Street.

On July 11, environment will be centre stage, and on September 19 the town centre and local economy. There will also be a drop-in session at the Market Hall on July 14, from 10am-12.30pm.

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