Government’s housing snub reversal could lead to developer ‘free-for-all’

Christchurch Land and Estates' proposed homes, community centre, extra care/assisted living facility

Christchurch Land and Estates' proposed homes, community centre, extra care/assisted living facility, play areas, village green, shops and employment centre in Felixstowe. - Credit: Archant

A district council’s refusal to permit 560 homes on the approach to Felixstowe has been upended by the government.

Two years ago, Suffolk Coastal threw out plans for new housing, a care home, assisted living units and a community centre off Gulpher Road and Candlet Road, saying their ‘significant harm’ would outweigh any economic benefits.

Christchurch Land and Estates launched an inquiry, arguing the council had underestimated its required five-year housing land supply and should have presumed in favour of development.

The local government minister challenged the council’s then estimated 5.8-year supply – now 7.1 years – with a more likely figure of no more than 3.5 years.

Sajid Javid said the council’s target of delivering 7,900 homes by 2027, rather than the 11,000 ‘objectively assessed housing need’ agreed by an inspector, was out-of-date and should have been subject to an early review in 2015.

Felixstowe town councillor Kimberley Williams, who spoke out against plans at the inquiry, saying the figure was academic to residents, who felt the decision should not be reduced to arithmetic, said delaying the early review until after the hearing had given developers a chance to take advantage of weakened policy.

She argued Suffolk Coastal now had everything to gain from a judicial review of the decision.

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Head of planning, Tony Fryatt called the decision “hugely disappointing”, and said the council would be considering its options after examining the ruling in detail.

He said Suffolk Coastal could demonstrate a five-year housing supply and now had a full suite of local planning policy documents allocating appropriate sites for development, which amounted to more than enough to provide the five-year supply, but that the secretary of state had not taken into account recent supporting evidence.

“The appeal decision once again concludes that Suffolk cannot fulfil its requirements, which therefore puts any greenfield sites around our town and villages at risk,” he added.

“This could lead to a developer free-for-all, with the people of Suffolk Coastal having inappropriate development imposed upon them by central government officials who are ignorant of our local needs and do not appreciate our unique environment.”