Don’t forget that people need to be able to afford a home

PUBLISHED: 10:00 04 February 2016




This week’s figures about the failure of developers to build enough new homes across Suffolk show just how serious the position is for people trying to find somewhere to live in the county.

While one dream is dead, long live the Ipswich Vision!

So farewell to the dream that was Cloisters, or the Mint Quarter. Today the dream of a comprehensive redevelopment of the area in Ipswich behind the old Woolies building and Upper Brook Street has been formally consigned to the dustbin of history.

NCP is selling retail units it had bought around the edge of its huge surface car park and now the idea of a single development on the site is at an end.

Which may actually be the making of the area if the right developers buy the sites and NCP is persuaded that it’s better to have 900 spaces in a multi-storey car park than 442 on a massive surface park near the middle of the town centre.

I keep hearing that there is a shortage of modern “big box” stores in the town and that the logical place to build them is in Upper Brook Street with a new multi-storey car park immediately behind them so shoppers can load up with their purchases.

To be fair, NCP is a car park operator not a property developer. So it could be far easier for someone else to actually develop the shops that are needed to make this vision become a reality.

But the pressure does need to be put on NCP to do what it’s all about and build a good big car park on the site.

And if it does build the park, it should enable the other half of the current site – in Cox Lane site – to become new homes for people keen to live in the town centre.

And it also shines a bright light on the difficulties faced by towns and villages looking to create a balanced community – we are in real danger of driving ordinary people away from places like Framlingham, Aldeburgh, and Lavenham.

According to the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership the county will have a housing shortfall of 15,000 by 2026 – that could leave about 30,000 people failing to find a home.

That is a real problem for the county and the people who want to live here... and frankly those already here need to take a long, hard look at themselves and ask what kind of society we want to live in.

There has been a great deal of controversy about proposals to build new homes in Framlingham. The town and district councils have done the right thing democratically and listened to the people who already live there and have opposed the developments.

But what does that mean for the town? Effectively the laws of supply and demand will kick in and it will become a community for the rich and those who have always lived there without any facilities for “ordinary” new people.

If the solicitors, surgeons, and business leaders working in large towns want to outbid others for a dwindling number of properties on the market then that is an economic fact of life.

But where will the people who work in the shops live? Will the mechanics in the garages have to drive to work from Ipswich or Leiston? How far will the school cleaners or the care workers at the various homes have to drive to get to work? And what about those who have to live on the patch? I was speaking to a senior fire officer the other day who said: “If all the potential part-time firefighters in a place like Framlingham, Nayland, or Aldeburgh are earning £50,000 or £60,000, what incentive is there for them to earn an extra few thousand a year as an on-call firefighter with all the commitment that involves?”

I’m not sure that a view of three attractive landmarks seen from one footpath visited by a few dozen people a year is really worth preserving a community in aspic and turning it into a ghetto of affluence. I know large housing developments change the character of places, but that’s always happened. The village of Whitton was absorbed into Ipswich in the early years of the last century.

When new homes are proposed they do, of course, need to be large enough and of sufficient quality for people to live in and make a comfortable life.

But we have to accept the underlying premise that people need somewhere to live – and if that means the character of some of our cherished communities has to change then so be it.

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