Heated debate sparked at council meeting over Ipswich’s need for 10,000 homes by 2031

Aerial view of Ipswich, which needs almost 10,000 new homes by 2031. Picture: MIKE PAGE

Aerial view of Ipswich, which needs almost 10,000 new homes by 2031. Picture: MIKE PAGE

A new housing plan set up to oversee the building of just under 10,000 new homes in Ipswich by 2031 sparked a heated debate at a full council meeting tonight as several councillors had their say.

Pledging to tackle a rise in rough sleeping and address a growing need for more affordable homes, the Ipswich Housing Strategy for 2017-2022 was given the go ahead – but not before several councillors made their opinions known.

The report, which revealed Ipswich has a target of building at least 9,777 by 2031 under the local plan, received a mixed reception from both sides of the council.

Opposition leader Ian Fisher’s comments on the proposals, which also aim to improve the quality of existing homes, sparked a debate about social housing and Ipswich’s need for it. He thanked council bosses for their efforts but called for a more robust action plan. Claiming the Labour group’s focus on delivering more and more social housing was “driving Ipswich down” and describing the council’s legacy on the issue as a significant problem that “needed to be addressed”, his remarks prompted an adverse reaction from the other side of the room.

Hitting back Mr Ellesmere stressed that government cuts had led to a reduction in social housing provision but stressed that in the plan, put together by housing portfolio holder Neil MacDonald, there is a heavy focus on both social and affordable housing to meet the town’s needs.

Concerns were also raised by the opposition about Ipswich’s place on the deprivation scale.

The report reveals that Ipswich is ranked 83rd out of 326 authorities – with 1 being the most deprived and 326 being the least.

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It states: “In 2015, the Ipswich ranking had risen to 71st out of 326 local authorities. Ipswich has become more deprived over the five year period of time.”

A spike in homelessness may be to blame for the figures, Mr Ellesmere said.

He added: “One of the main priorities as highlighted in the plan is to help our homeless which unfortunately I think we will find difficult particularly with the full introduction of Universal Credit in years to come.

“The deprivation index has got worse but that is likely to be down to the dreadful cuts imposed by the Conservative government.”

It is hoped the housing strategy, which will now go ahead, will deliver better provision for everyone while also drawing more buyers and tenants to the town.

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