Council approves plan for joint venture to develop thousands of new homes

A builder laying a brick

Suffolk County Council is planning to facilitate housebuilding across the county - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The green light has been given for a new joint venture to be formed that will facilitate housebuilding on sites across Suffolk.

And Suffolk County Council bosses behind the plan say it will help deliver housing types communities need along with the necessary infrastructure and environmental measures.

Conservative county council leader Matthew Hicks last year outlined his vision for making available county council-owned land for new housing developments where it was appropriate, and on Tuesday afternoon the authority's cabinet agreed to the next steps in forming a new joint venture that will facilitate new homes being built.

The council is currently working on around 15-20 identified sites, although not all of those will be with the new joint venture company.

The council's strategic housing lead Duncan Johnson said it would not be a one-size-fits-all approach because each development would have different needs.

However, the proposals mean the council can help facilitate much-needed new homes in communities, and crucially provide a level of control over types of housing which may not be as prevalent in private developments, such as first time homes and suitable homes for older people.

County council cabinet member for housing, Nick Gowrley said new homes facilitated by the council would deliver on the social value and environmental pledges.

Suffolk County Council cabinet member for housing Nick Gowrley

Conservative cabinet member for housing at Suffolk County Council, Nick Gowrley - Credit: Suffolk County Council

"This is an important milestone for our housing approach and I wish to thank Avison Young and Pinsent Masons for their work in pulling this comprehensive business case together," he said.

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"While this new joint venture will represent a major part of bringing forward specific land assets for development, it will still only be one part of our overall approach to housing.  

"Those sites not considered suitable for the joint venture, due to size or scheme objectives, will be developed in more traditional ways, such as by sale to a local housing developer."

The plans have been drawn up over the last year after Concertus Design and Property Consultants Ltd recruited real estate advisors Avison Young and law firm Pinsent Masons to assist the council.

The council is understood to be the third largest landowner in the county, with a number of brownfield sites also in its ownership that could be developed.

While the sites under consideration have not been revealed yet, it does include some large-scale developments likely to be 1,000-plus homes in Mildenhall and Lowestoft.

The cabinet decision means formal work to create the new venture and procure a partner will take place through 2021 with the aim of cabinet approving the partner at the tail end of the year.

During that time work on bringing forward plans for appropriate sites will continue.

However, the opposition Labour group referenced the Barley Homes joint venture which the council walked away from before a single house had been built.

Labour Councillor Sarah Adams Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Leader of Suffolk County Council's opposition Labour group, Sarah Adams - Credit: Archant

Labour group leader Sarah Adams said: "Housing demand in Suffolk far outstrips supply, pricing ordinary people out of home ownership and pushing rents sky high.

"I hope the Conservatives' new venture is successful and delivers affordable, high quality homes for the people of Suffolk.

"But we cannot ignore the obvious risks - with construction costs rising, council finances feeling the strain and the disaster of Barley Homes still fresh in the memory, this is undoubtedly a gamble."