Plan to identify sites for 17,500 homes delayed

House building. Construction on a Hopkins Homes site. Picture: ANDREW HENDRY

The plan will identify sites for homes up to 2036 - Credit: Andrew Hendry

Fresh delays have beset a strategy which will determine where 17,500 new homes are built across two Suffolk districts over the next 15 years.

The Planning Inspectorate has been in the examination phase of Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils’ joint local plan – a blueprint outlining suitable areas for housing development up to 2036.

But that examination has been put on pause as planning inspectors outlined concerns around issues including the housing site selections.

The delay is likely to be around six months, sources indicate, meaning an adopted plan will not be ready in time for this winter as planned.

A Planning Inspectorate spokesman said: “Two Inspectors were appointed to examine the Babergh and Mid Suffolk joint local plan earlier this year.

“At the hearing sessions this week the inspectors confirmed that they have some concerns about the spatial strategy in the plan and the housing site selection process.

“In response the council requested a pause in the examination so they could consider the way forward.

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“No timescales have been set for the pause, but if the council carries out additional work it could take a number of months.”

Tom Barker, the councils’ assistant director of planning, said it was "not unusual for examinations to reveal matters that need further work".

He added: “By agreeing to consider pausing the examination, the planning inspectors are allowing us the opportunity to review parts of our evidence so everyone can be sure that it is thorough and robust when adopted.”

Local plans are key documents which give communities a greater degree of control over new estates, and can be important in blocking speculative developments.

They also consider other important features like biodiversity arrangements, flood risks and water supply among others.

 Picture: MID SUFFOLK DISTRICT COUNCIL

David Burn, Conservative cabinet member for planning at Mid Suffolk District Council. - Credit: MID SUFFOLK DISTRICT COUNCIL

David Burn, Mid Suffolk District Council’s Conservative cabinet member for planning, said: “The joint local plan will help to shape the future of Mid Suffolk – how our towns and villages develop, how we protect and enhance our natural environment, develop our local economy, improve leisure and visitor facilities, improve social infrastructure and support more sustainable forms of travel.

“It is right, therefore, that we take the necessary time to demonstrate the robustness of this plan, so everyone can have confidence in our future strategy.”

Andrew Stringer

Andrew Stringer, Green councillor at Mid Suffolk District Council and Suffolk County Council. - Credit: JASON NOBLE LDRS

Andrew Stringer, spokesman for planning at Mid Suffolk’s opposition Green and Liberal Democrat group, said it was right the process was paused but re-iterated concerns about the number of future homes being concentrated along the A14 corridor.

He added: “As the examination unfolded it was clear that in the preparation of the joint plan the eagerness to move at pace has led to anomalies that are proving difficult to square.

“It is right that the hearings have been paused, but his could lead to increased risk of unplanned development, due to the Government’s insatiable appetite for more and more development in our rural district.”

Clive Arthey, Babergh’s Independent cabinet member for planning, said: “We want everyone to understand how we’re going to provide the housing and the jobs needed in Babergh, and must be able to evidence it in our plan – not only to the satisfaction of the planning inspector, but more importantly to our residents.”