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Ipswich: Council houses debate reawakened as MP claims borough’s demands over affordable homes are putting developers off

PUBLISHED: 12:12 15 August 2014

Work starts on the first new council houses in Ipswich for 20 years. David Ellesmere in the digger.

Work starts on the first new council houses in Ipswich for 20 years. David Ellesmere in the digger.

Archant

As work on the first new council estate in Ipswich for a generation is due to get under way, its construction marks a shift in policy on new “social” or “affordable” homes.

For the last 30 years new social housing has been built alongside owner-occupied properties, to avoid the creation of council housing “ghettos.”

However since the recession the number of affordable homes being built has fallen – and recent changes to legislation has allowed local authorities to build again.

Ipswich Council has already built a small number in Whitton and Chantry, but work is about to start on a 100-home estate at Bader Close on Priory Heath.

There are also plans for new developments at Ulster Avenue, Ravenswood, and Bramford Road.

Labour council leader David Ellesmere said it was necessary for the council to build new homes because private sector builders were reluctant to build enough affordable homes because they were not profitable enough.

He said: “Changes brought in by the current government have made it easier for developers to get out of building affordable homes, so as we now have the right to build on our land that is the only way to get much-needed affordable homes built.”

The new homes were badly needed and would be welcomed by many people on the housing waiting lists or in expensive private rented homes, he added.

His comments were disputed by Ipswich Conservative MP Ben Gummer who said: “It is not true that the government has made it easier for developers to get out of building affordable homes.

“I voted to allow councils to build again. The problem with Ipswich is that the council insists on such a high proportion of affordable homes that they put developers off – it’s one of few places where the number of new home starts fell last year.”

Conservatives on the borough also suspect that the new council homes have been built to help boost the Labour vote in parts of the town.

Opposition leader Nadia Cenci said: “The new estates like that planned for Ravenswood will be separate from the rest of the area, and that has caused deep concern.”

However Mr Ellesmere did not accept that the new council homes would remain apart from the rest of the area – and would eventually become indistinguishable from their neighbours.

He said: “Over time council estates become mixed estates as some tenants are likely to exercise the right to buy.”

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