Council's cheap homes policy thwarted

By Richard SmithA ROW over the lack of affordable housing erupted last night after the Government failed to back a council's plan for cheaper homes.Suffolk Coastal District Council wanted to increase the number of homes available for people struggling to gain a footing on the housing ladder in towns and villages.

By Richard Smith

A ROW over the lack of affordable housing erupted last night after the Government failed to back a council's plan for cheaper homes.

Suffolk Coastal District Council wanted to increase the number of homes available for people struggling to gain a footing on the housing ladder in towns and villages.

But Geoff Salter, a Government-appointed planning inspector, did not back the council after he held an inquiry into its plan.


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Rae Leighton, the council's acting cabinet member for planning, said: “To help meet the increasingly urgent local demand for affordable housing, we proposed that one in three of all new homes in developments of three or more houses in villages, or six or more in towns, should be affordable housing.

“This sensible and important new tool is now in real danger of being blunted by Mr Salter, who recommends that the thresholds for the application of the one in three homes rule should be increased to developments of nine in villages and 15 in towns respectively.

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“I cannot see the logic for this recommendation, which seems to fly in the face of the real needs of our district's communities as small villages so seldom have developments of nine or more houses.

“It goes against all the Government's statements about how important it is that councils encourage more affordable housing. We will now have to consider what we can do to ensure that the requirements of our residents are met.”

Mr Salter supported some policy changes suggested by the council, including the consideration of granting planning permission on land outside of established town boundaries. These “exception” sites would not normally be released for housing development.

The draft report accepted this proposal for the edges of Aldeburgh, Framlingham, Leiston and Saxmundham, but not for Woodbridge.

A district-wide housing needs survey commissioned by Suffolk Coastal District Council in 2000 revealed that 484 new affordable homes a year were required to meet local demand, with a particular need for rented housing. There has been a considerable amount of new house building in the district recently, but it is too expensive for first-time buyers.

The council said changing social trends such as more young single people wanting a home of their own, people living longer and the break-up of relationships was creating an increasing need for smaller and low-cost accommodation, which had not been met by the market-led demand for large properties.

Its cabinet will make a recommendation in October to the full council on the way ahead for its policy in the light of Mr Salter's report.

richard.smith@eadt.co.uk

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