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More affordable homes needed in Sufolk

PUBLISHED: 16:54 14 August 2001 | UPDATED: 10:26 03 March 2010

VILLAGES will be turned into "rich people's ghettos" unless more affordable housing is built across East Anglia, a frustrated landowner has claimed.

Retired farmer Kenneth King and his wife Helen have been trying to sell their land on the edge of East Bergholt for more than a decade and would like to see all, or part, of the 23 acre-plot developed into low-cost housing for villagers.

VILLAGES will be turned into "rich people's ghettos" unless more affordable housing is built across East Anglia, a frustrated landowner has claimed.

Retired farmer Kenneth King and his wife Helen have been trying to sell their land on the edge of East Bergholt for more than a decade and would like to see all, or part, of the 23 acre-plot developed into low-cost housing for villagers.

But they believe their plans have been thwarted by opposition from other locals, who are concerned the image of the picturesque village, in the heart of Constable Country, would suffer.

Mr King, who bought Woodlands Farm in East End more than 50 years ago, said several builders had shown interest in the site but failed to secure local support for the homes, which had scuppered planning applications.

"It is a wonderful piece of land for housing and we would love to see something there for local people. It is so frustrating that we cannot do anything with it, especially when there is such a need for affordable housing in the village," he said.

The couple, of School Lane, East Bergholt, moved off the land around 30 years ago and decided to sell the plot to provide security for themselves and their three grown-up children.

But the most recent scheme to develop the land, with five low-cost houses, fell through more than two years ago.

"People would build on the land if they could and there isn't affordable housing in the village – it is a problem," said Mrs King.

"There is nowhere for local people to go if they cannot afford the extraordinary prices elsewhere in the village. But people do not want social housing here because they think the image of the village will suffer."

In the late-1990s, Hastoe >>> Housing Association, of Earl Soham, submitted an application to build five low-cost homes on the Woodlands Farm site but met with opposition from East Bergholt Parish Council and its bid was rejected by Babergh District Council.

The association had carried out a survey in the village that discovered at least 60 single people or households were in need of affordable housing.

"I think it was the right village in terms of housing needs, but in terms of attitude there was not a meeting of minds," said its regional development manager Andrew Budden.

"The articulate members of the village felt they did not want the houses on the site. It was really rather sad because the people who lost out were those in need of affordable houses."

Before the bid was rejected, the-then Babergh parish councillor Tim Richmond pleaded with parish councillors not to allow the village to become a "rich people's ghetto".

According to Mr and Mrs King, that has already happened and is in danger of happening elsewhere. They are angered that permission has been refused for their land while other developments, with houses costing hundreds of thousands of pounds, are continuing in East Bergholt.

The couple said they had not given up hope of selling the land but Mrs King added: "One builder told me they would be interested but said there are always problems with East Bergholt. When are they going to build something that the average person can buy?"

But Joan Miller, vice-chairman of the parish council, said the application for Woodlands Farm was rejected because of access problems and because it was situated "on an extremely dangerous bend". She claimed the village's problem with affordable housing was "small, but not insignificant."

"We have been involved in the past to build and obtain affordable housing and are not opposed to it, but the number of people requiring that type of housing varies from time to time and they are a very mobile group," she said.

Pat Barnes, chief executive of Babergh District Council, added that applications for "exceptions" to the local housing plan would be approved it there was a "proven need" for the homes and if local support was received.

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