Fears floodgates could open for speculative developers in district

Mid Suffolk District Council Green party leader Rachel Eburne has questioned the council's housing i

Mid Suffolk District Council Green party leader Rachel Eburne has questioned the council's housing issues Picture: GREEN PARTY - Credit: Green Party

Questions have been raised over house building in Mid Suffolk, as a drive to build more homes in the district is being planned.

Jill Wilshaw said a housing company was one option being looked at Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Jill Wilshaw said a housing company was one option being looked at Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

An application by Landex Ltd for 49 homes off Green Road in Woolpit was upheld at appeal, following Mid Suffolk District Council’s decision to refuse permission.

Inspector Harold Stephens in his report ruled that the council could not demonstrate it had a five-year housing supply, despite the council believing it could.

It now leaves it open to speculative developers which have to have their applications considered more favourably where five-year land supplies are not in place.

At Thursday’s full council meeting, opposition Green group leader Rachel Eburne questioned why the council had not set up a housing company to build homes with £25million borrowed instead of investing it in out of county commercial deals.

“They could have set up a housing company and borrowed £25million to build homes for private sale and rent,” she said.

“This way they can build – whether on their own or with a development partner – homes that we know are needed in Mid Suffolk as shown in the housing needs survey. They could sell or rent out these homes to become a private landlord.”

She added: “It demonstrates that those representing the administration still fail to understand the significance of the recent appeal decision and the importance of having a five year housing land supply in order to ensure homes are built with the agreement of the community rather than at the will of speculative developers.

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“Communities understand this very well and many are working on neighbourhood plans to have housing where they need it.”

Conservative cabinet member for housing Jill Wilshaw said it was investigating ways to deliver more homes, with a report due before cabinet in December.

She said: “The council has already identified land to deliver the council’s current ambitious pipeline of housing, with the delivery of 309 homes predicted over the next three years with 200 of these being affordable.

“A housing company is one of many vehicles the council will be looking to use to accelerate housing development, though as we know from other councils nationally that having a housing company, on its own, does not necessarily deliver more homes.

“We are though confident that with a range of different vehicles and partnerships we can be at the forefront of making a positive intervention in the housing market and we endeavour to meet, and hopefully exceed, the housing targets we have been set.”

Since the Woolpit decision has been issued, concerns have also been raised that parish councils, agents, developers and the public were in the dark as to the council’s five-year housing position.

Glen Horn, Conservative cabinet member for planning said further communication with the public would be held once more evidence had been collated.

“Officers are currently working to clarify and solidify the evidence that underpins the calculation, including contacting developers with outline planning permissions to secure the evidence required by the new NPPF [National Planning Policy Framework] to demonstrate their deliverability,” he said.

“This is a challenge because providing us with detailed information is not necessarily in their commercial interests – a point that Nick [Gowrley] as leader of the council has raised with the Minister, James Brokenshire.”

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