Boost for Suffolk housing

RADICAL moves to boost the amount of affordable housing in the Suffolk Coastal area will be decided by a public inquiry.The Labour government is one of the main objectors to the district council's proposals to ensure people have a chance to buy or rent a cheap home in their towns and villages and not be forced to move away.

RADICAL moves to boost the amount of affordable housing in the Suffolk Coastal area will be decided by a public inquiry.

The Labour government is one of the main objectors to the district council's proposals to ensure people have a chance to buy or rent a cheap home in their towns and villages and not be forced to move away.

Government officials have appointed independent inspector Geoff Salter to hold an inquiry on March 15.

He will hear the council's case for its new, creative policies to address the area's housing problems in this district.

National planning policies issued by government also recognise the need for more affordable housing and guidance has been issued to give councils the power to insist developers help meet local needs.

But the government is objecting to Suffolk Coastal's scheme, as is the county council and a number of house builders and their representatives.

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"To help meet the increasingly urgent local demand for affordable housing, we have proposed a change in our planning policy so that one in three of all new homes in developments of three houses or more in villages, or six or more in towns, should be affordable housing," said Andy Smith, cabinet member for planning.

"This is a significant increase from our present policy and will mean some considerable changes for developers.

"We are also prepared to consider granting exceptional planning permission on land outside of the established boundaries of our villages and market towns that would not normally be released.

"All applications will continue to be considered on their own merits, but we must start taking radical action to ensure that as far as possible our local people can have a home of their own in their own local community."

A district-wide housing needs survey in 2000 revealed 484 new affordable homes - especially rented properties - a year were required to meet demand.

There has been considerable house building in the district in recent years, but much of it targeted at people already on the housing ladder.

Changing social trends such as more young single people wanting a home of their own, people living longer and the break-up of relationships is creating a constantly increasing need for smaller and low-cost accommodation.

"I am optimistic that the inspector will recognise the strength and justification of our arguments for this important change that would be a major boost to our residents," said Mr Smith.

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