West Suffolk: Villages named for affordable housing pilot

West Suffolk House in Bury which is home to St Edmundsbury Borough Council

West Suffolk House in Bury which is home to St Edmundsbury Borough Council - Credit: Archant

A PILOT project to examine the need for affordable housing in rural parts of west Suffolk is due to begin.

St Edmundsbury Borough Council’s rural area working party will be told that eight villages in the region have, or will be contacted, to take part in the scheme which will involve discussion with local authorities and workshops in communities about housing need.

So far Ixworth, Wickhambrook, Hopton, Great and Little Thurlow, Chevington, Coney Weston and Hawstead have all been identified as villages to be included in the pilot. Council officials said the idea of the project is to go beyond traditional housing needs surveys to create more community-led schemes.

The document, put together by St Edmundsbury Borough Council cabinet member for housing, Anne Gower and lead officer Simon Phelan said the new approach was particularly relevant considering Government cuts.

“The grant that Registered Providers (the council) receive for developing affordable housing particularly in the rural area. Therefore, to be in a position to respond to the growing need for affordable homes in rural areas, it is important to ensure that the affordable homes to be built in the future make the best use of grant funding that is available and to look for new opportunities for providing homes,” the report states.

Officials said although the pilot is about ensuring the authority has the right information to make decisions on future residential developments, wider community needs - such as care and support and space for home/community working - would also be considered.

The report, which will be discussed on Wednesday, says the ‘rural profiling pilot’ will be broken down into three stages. A ‘desktop exercise’ of data from the chosen villages, including population ages and social economic status, would provide a starting point before parish councils are consulted about the region’s needs.

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The ‘crucial stage of the pilot’ involves working with communities “to take ownership of the work and to actually deliver solutions to meet identified needs.”

The document states that the council’s role will be in supporting the community, rather than driving forward potential solutions.

Officials have said they also want to create a web-based guide to allow other communities to access the information and support from the programme while also creating a ‘lasting legacy’ for the pilot.

The report states that £10,000 of funding for the pilot scheme has already been approved by cabinet but that the costs for creating a web-based guide would need to be investigated further.