Ipswich: Politics of planning is stifling the town’s development – top Tory
PUBLISHED: 18:17 22 April 2014 | UPDATED: 18:17 22 April 2014
Political interference in planning matters at the borough has held back the development of Ipswich and prevented the town from taking full advantage of the economic recovery.
Labour responds to criticism
Mrs Terry’s criticisms did not go down well with Mr Ellesmere: “I’m not going to apologise for trying to get as many affordable homes as possible as part of new developments in the town.
“There is no point in allowing homes to go up if no one can afford to live in them.
“When Mrs Terry’s party was in power they gave the go ahead for luxury flats on the Waterfront that no one could afford and look at what happened. Look at the wine rack!”
Mr Ellesmere said work was well underway with building 400 new flats on the Waterfront, a significant proportion of them affordable, and earlier this month planning permission had been granted for nearly 100 new homes off Europa Way, including many for affordable rents.
The council would be starting to build its new 100-home development off Bader Close within the next few months.
He added: “We also have Mersea Homes, a private developer, seeking to start work on the first phase of the northern fringe/garden suburb and the Tories say that is too premature. They can’t have it both ways!”
Mr Ellesmere said the hiatus of the recession had led to a national slowdown in house building, but it was picking up. It was right that planning policies should be observed.
And he was confident that a new planning application with an acceptable proportion of affordable homes would come forward for the St Clement’s site.
He said: “The target of 35% affordable homes was first adopted by the former Conservative/LibDem administration of which Mrs Terry was a member.
“If it is not possible for that to be achieved we will talk to developers and see if there is an a compromise figure that can be agreed – but if you remove it as a requirement altogether, developers would always try to ignore it.”
That’s the verdict of senior Conservative councillor Judy Terry who is preparing to stand down after a decade in the front line of Ipswich politics.
Mrs Terry is currently opposition housing spokeswoman at the borough, but is not seeking re-election next month.
She is also a member of the planning and development committee, but said the borough must take much of the blame for the lack of new developments in the town over recent years.
However Labour council leader David Ellesmere said his administration had “nothing to apologise for” in attempting to get more affordable homes – and was confident development would pick up as the economy improves.
Mrs Terry said: “There is too much political interference. The planning department has lost a lot of good staff over recent years which would slow things down anyway.”
Mrs Terry felt the borough’s insistence on a high proportion of affordable homes with every significant application had put developers off – proposals for a new housing development on the site of the former St Clement’s Hospital was withdrawn because the council insisted 35% of them should be for rent.
She said: “Last year less than 100 new homes were built in the borough. The economy is recovering, but we’re not seeing developments in Ipswich because the council makes so many demands.”
It is not just housing developments that have faced problems – Mrs Terry said political interference had delayed proposals for a Tesco in Grafton Way for so long that eventually the company decided to walk away.
And the council’s economic development officers should have sold the town to potential employers: “We’re an hour from the City of London, there’s office space to let at a reasonable price.
“Why aren’t we down there talking to companies about relocating to Ipswich? That’s what the town needs,” she added.