Councillors' delight as Neighbourhood Plans approved for two Suffolk villages
PUBLISHED: 05:30 20 March 2019 | UPDATED: 07:49 20 March 2019
Two mid Suffolk communities have become the latest to celebrate the approval of their Neighbourhood Plans – in a move that will help inform future development for the next two decades.
The Neighbourhood Plans (NPs) for the villages of Debenham and Stradbroke have been adopted by Mid Suffolk District Council (MSDC), after an overwhelming majority of voters backed the proposals at separate referenda held earlier this year.
The plans, which have statutory weight and status, will allow village leaders to keep development at a rate they feel is sustainable for their communities while ensuring they cater for new and existing residents.
In Debenham, three sites accommodating up to 316 homes are earmarked for future development, while in Stradbroke five sites have been allocated for a minimum of 219 homes to built before 2036.
James Hargrave, chairman of Stradbroke Parish Council, said he was “really, really pleased” with the outcome – adding that, while new developments are not always popular, an NP offers the community the opportunity to take charge of its own future.
“It does mean that local communities have to have a conversation with themselves,” he said.
“In return for taking that responsibility, luckily you do get a say in what happens. It lets you be more proactive.”
While the plan avoids “massive development all at once”, Mr Hargrave said it was important for the village to have “some new housing”, partly for people who would like to stay in Stradbroke but are struggling to get on the housing ladder.
He added that the implementation of the NP means the council will keep 25% of the community infrastructure levy (CIL) for each development – adding to the village’s investment pot.
This additional funding could then be put towards a new nursery and an extension of the village playing fields.
“We are having that the NP will be able to provide that kind of community benefit,” he said.
The plan has been in development since 2014, and was only the second referendum in the district after Mendlesham.
In December, MSDC’s cabinet approved the NPs for Debenham and Stradbroke to go to referendum.
The Debenham result featured a 58.8% turnout of eligible voters, with 972 people voting in favour of the plan – 95.5% of the turnout.
Meanwhile, more than 40% of the eligible 1,197 electorate turned out for the Stradbroke vote, which resulted in 387 people backing the plan – 80.4% of the turnout.
Steve Palframan, chair of Debenham Parish Council, said he was “quietly confident it was going to be fine” following the “tremendous” referendum result.
“Part of the reason it took us so long was that we really did go to town on the consultation,” he said.
“We really got the community engaged in the process – that really made it so much better in later stages. I was astounded at the level of support.
“If other villages are thinking about going through the process, I am more than happy to share our experiences with them.”
Glen Horn, MSDC’s cabinet member for planning, said: “These plans are the most effective way for communities to shape growth in their area, and the number of groups who have taken up the challenge of neighbourhood planning in mid Suffolk is inspiring. I am very pleased to see Stradbroke and Debenham complete their plans and I was very happy to bring them to MSDC for adoption.
“I would like to offer my congratulations to both NP teams: the amount of work that has gone into these plans is very impressive, and shows genuine commitment on the part of the people who have contributed to them.”
There are 18 other communities in mid Suffolk currently drawing up their own NPs, including Stowupland, Haughley and Thurston.