Is there really any upturn in the region’s housebuilding?
Last week the Chancellor of the Exchequer was in Ipswich talking up the recovery in the economy – but one area that has not seemed to show any real benefit is housebuilding.
And seeing what is happening in both Ipswich and Suffolk Coastal, it’s not difficult to reach the conclusion that some developers don’t really see the area as somewhere people want to live.
Of course there are different political philosophies underlying the planning decisions coming out of the councils, but neither seems to have really addressed the fact that some developers don’t seem keen on building here full stop.
In Ipswich the Labour council tries to insist on a substantial proportion of any large housing development being “affordable” – and this has resulted in developers being very slow to come forward or even, as in the case of the old St Clement’s site, pulling out of proposed developments.
In Suffolk Coastal the council also has a policy that a significant proportion of any new large development should be “affordable” – but it seems that the minute a developer protests about this the authority waters down the restriction.
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Despite these different reactions, however, housebuilding doesn’t seem to have taken off in either Ipswich or Suffolk Coastal over recent years.
The other issue we have seen in Suffolk Coastal’s area is the apparent keenness of the authority to see as many of its new houses built in Greater Ipswich.
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Kesgrave, Martlesham Heath, Rushmere and Purdis Farm have grown beyond recognition over the last 20 years while traditional market towns like Woodbridge, Framlingham, and Aldeburgh have become ever more expensive and exclusive as the supply of land for new homes is so small.
The one exception to this rule in Suffolk Coastal is Saxmundham where the existence of the rail line has helped fuel growth.
Suffolk Coastal says it is working to create 7,900 homes while “protecting the valuable, unique environment and high quality of life in this area”.
I’m afraid I took that to mean: “We’re trying to find a way of cramming as many homes as near Ipswich as possible so we don’t hack off the rich people in the leafier parts of the district!”
What I suspect might happen is that when developers do start to build in this area, they’ll be falling over themselves to fill in the gaps around Ipswich – but outside the borough – because they believe this will fall on receptive ears at Suffolk Coastal.
Meanwhile, in the town itself brownfield sites will remain undeveloped – and those seeking affordable homes will continue to search in vain for either homes to rent or the first step on the home ownership ladder.