How do you get planning permission for large developments?

Ipswich Garden Suburb

The first signs of development have appeared on the Ipswich Garden Suburb this year -- decades after it was first proposed - Credit: CHARLOTTE BOND

New housing developments - some quite large - have featured heavily in the news in Suffolk over recent months. And that seems likely to continue.

But how do developers get their hands on the land they need? How do councils decide where new homes should be built? And what can local authorities do to ensure that developers do as they are required when building new communities?

How do developers get hold of the land? 

The simple answer is they buy it - but property development on this scale can be a very, very long-term business and property companies can often buy land years or even decades before they are able to start building.

Back in the 1980s there was a big planning inquiry into three housing developments planned on the edge of Ipswich: the Northern Fringe, Chantry Vale, and Thorrington Hall.

The result of this was that Thorrington Hall was given the go-ahead - it is now the Pinewood development between Ipswich and the A14. The other two were blocked. The inspector (and it was one planning inquiry into all three applications) said there was no need for them at that time.

They were effectively put off of a generation. But the companies who owned the land hung on to it - the farmers and other users were able to carry on working it.

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And now 35 years later the developments have been resurrected as the Ipswich Garden Suburb and Wolsey Grange - the same developers (or their successor companies) are involved. They have played the ultimate "long-game".

Usually developers do not show their hand until they need to - but there is nothing unusual about the Jaynic Property Group buying land on the edge of Needham Market in the hope that it might be possible to develop at some point in the 2030s or even beyond.

How do councils consider large-scale planning applications?

Large planning applications are very expensive for builders - they can run into six figures for the largest developments - so their architects and agents will usually talk in advance to planning officers to see what might be acceptable before formally applying.

All planning applications give neighbours the chance to comment on them before a decision is made - with large applications there is usually a requirement for a full public consultation with an exhibition of plans and the offer of a chance for people to ask questions.

There are also likely to be several stages of application - from outline which looks at the principle of the development, the general layout, and what is needed in a new development, to detailed which comes down to what individual houses will look like and how large each will be.

Large planning applications can take many years to "build out" and developers will usually be asked to come up with a detailed programme of construction so new residents know how long they will literally be living on a building site before they move in!

How can councils ensure new developments provide services needed?

Local councils can use Section 106 of the 1990 Town and Country Planning Act to force developers to make contributions to local services as part of a new development.

These s106 Agreements, as they are known, can force developers to set aside land for recreation, to make payments to pay for an expansion to a local school or to provide shops or other services.

Ravenswood Primary School

Major new developments like Ravenswood in Ipswich will be expected to provide new facilities like a primary school. - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

In the case of a really large development - like the Ipswich Garden Suburb - the local council can commission from planning experts to say how a whole new community should be developed.

A series of s106 Agreements can then be used to ensure that the developer(s) complete these community facilities as new homes are built over a number of years.

That approach has already been successfully used with the creation of the Ravenswood development in south east Ipswich.

New council houses in Ipswich, like these in Bader Close, are some of the best new homes in the town

New council houses in Ipswich, like these in Bader Close, are some of the best new homes in the town. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

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