Suffolk villages under threat from speculative developers until late 2021, new timetable shows

Thurston is among the villages to have suffered from an influx in developers since Babergh and Mid S

Thurston is among the villages to have suffered from an influx in developers since Babergh and Mid Suffolk have not had an up-to-date joint local plan. Picture: GREGG BROWN - Credit: Archant

A key document which will prevent speculative developers from building unsuitable estates in Suffolk towns and villages will not be ready until the end of 2021 at the earliest, it has emerged.

Mid Suffolk Green councillor Andrew Stringer urged more momentum to get the joint local plan deliver

Mid Suffolk Green councillor Andrew Stringer urged more momentum to get the joint local plan delivered, as communities were already feeling the consequences. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

The joint local plan being developed by Babergh and Mid Suffolk district councils will act as a blueprint for future development up to 2036 allocating sites suitable for homes, as well as necessary infrastructure improvements such as schools and road improvements.

MORE: Why a local plan has been delayed in Babergh and Mid SuffolkThe original timeline had been for the plan to be adopted at the start of 2020, before that was pushed back to spring 2020.

Now the latest timetable suggests that the plan won’t be adopted until late 2021 or early 2022.

Councillors have warned it is crucial the plan progresses so that unsustainable developments do not get approval before it is too late.

Councillor David Burn, Mid Suffolk District Council cabinet member for planning said the new timetab

Councillor David Burn, Mid Suffolk District Council cabinet member for planning said the new timetable was deliverable and said he had been doing everything possible for the plan to progress. Picture: MSDC - Credit: MSDC

Mid Suffolk Green councillor Andrew Stringer said: “We have seen some of these dire consequences being enacted in three dimensions in some of our communities which is not what many of those communities deem as sustainable.”

He said that he had “lost count of the number of times” he had seen a new timetable brought in, and urged fresh efforts to make it a priority.

Liberal Democrat group leader at Mid Suffolk, John Field, added: “People need to understand its priority. Good management is not about providing a good set of excuses when you miss and end date, it’s about getting it done.”

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It was also acknowledged that government changes to national planning policies did not help councils in producing their plans.

Councils without a local plan are expected to give more weight to approving applications, opening the door to speculative developers to seize planning permission where they may not otherwise be successful.

Communities in the Gipping Valley of Sproughton and Bramford, as well as around Thurston are among those to face swelling numbers of applications in recent months and years which are feeling the effect of not having a plan.

According to the council, a series of delays including last year’s local elections and the snap general election in December, as well as the coronavirus crisis have contributed to the delays.

The emerging plan will however carry more weight once agreed by the councils later this year.

Current drafts indicate around 17,500 new homes will be needed across the two districts in the next 15 years.

Clive Arthey, Independent cabinet member for planning at Babergh, said there were timeframes that couldn’t be shortened, and said: “I am committed to delivering the new joint local plan as soon as possible.”

David Burn, Mid Suffolk’s Conservative cabinet member for planning, said he believed the new timetable was realistic, if tight, and added: “I and my colleagues have done everything we can to ensure the new local plan can be delivered as soon as possible, including encouraging officers to draw on extra resources where possible.”

Analysis: What is a local plan and why is it important?

A local plan, which in the case of Babergh and Mid Suffolk district councils will be a joint blueprint, is effectively a future development map.

It allocates sites deemed suitable for housing, but also indicates the need for future infrastructure needed such as roads, bus routes, schools and health centres.

The existing plan is out of date which means that, under planning law, authorities are required to give more weight in favour of approving applications in order to meet housing demand.

It means that some developers can attempt to force through new builds in areas where it may not be considered sustainable or appropriate.

It also means that in cases where planning permission is refused, it is much more likely that developers will appeal to the Planning Inspectorate for the decision to be overturned and permission granted – a process which can be time-consuming and costly for council legal teams.

Having a five year land supply and a fully adopted local plan means that the districts have essentially mapped out a sustainable future which means that developments considered unsustainable can be rejected. It gives authorities a greater degree of control in ensuring that developments meet the needs of the community they are being built in and with the necessary infrastructure improvements.

For certain communities this is crucial – particularly in areas which are considered attractive for development. Some areas are already facing the prospect of doubling in size.

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