‘Full steam ahead’ for new affordable housing proposals in Suffolk

Housing (stock image)

Housing (stock image) - Credit: PA

An innovative approach to solving Suffolk’s affordable housing shortage is said to have been met with an “enthusiastic response” from council representatives.

Tony Fryatt, who presented proposals, which would see groups of neighbours becoming housing developers, to the Suffolk Association of Local Councils (SALC) last month. He said it was now “full steam ahead” with the scheme.

He believes the idea can help address the county-wide shortage of affordable housing, which he says planning policy is failing to address. Although authorities such as Suffolk Coastal District Council have a quota system, whereby a third of new housing developments must be classed as affordable, this only applies to large schemes and so those in small villages are often exempt.

Under the proposals, sites not usually eligible for development, such as farmland, would be made available on the condition only affordable housing is built.

Local communities, parish councils, or housing associations would then buy the land at a cheaper price than would be needed for prime development sites, and have greater control over the type of housing provided. They would also be able to place covenants on the properties, ensuring they remain in the community’s control.

Mr Fryatt said the suggestions had been “enthusiastically received” at the latest SALC meeting and a working party set up to investigate the proposals further.

“It’s full steam ahead,” he said. “If we go down this route it will be localism in action and it means we can put the affordable housing where it is wanted.”

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There are a number of different ways to develop the scheme, with the preferred option so far involving what are known as “community land trusts” – ordinary groups of villagers working together.

Mr Fryatt has met with Debbie Wildridge, who manages schemes for the east branch of the National Community Land Trusts Network (NCLTN), offering advice and funding support to different groups. One such group in Lavenham has already developed a business plan for a scheme in the village.

Other schemes involving housing associations will also be explored, Mr Fryatt said.

A seminar will be held to give Suffolk communities more information on the scheme in June.