Why more homes could be built in Suffolk – and what it might mean for local communities
PUBLISHED: 07:32 14 September 2020 | UPDATED: 15:08 14 September 2020
Suffolk councils could be forced to approve twice as many homes per year under new government proposals – a move that some claim could “permanently destroy” the character of many communities.
As part of a consultation on changes to the planning system, the government is planning a more aggressive means of building 300,000 homes per year nationwide to tackle the housing crisis.
The new formula proposed for determining the housing need will leave some areas of Suffolk forced to approve twice as many homes per year as they do now.
Figures by planning consultancy Lichfield to model the new calculation revealed that for Babergh the annual requirement would jump from 300 homes per year to 789, while East Suffolk’s provision would also double from 839 to 1,660.
Significant increases would be seen in Ipswich with an increase from 489 new homes per year to 552, while Mid Suffolk would be expected to provide 754 homes annually instead of the current 430. Only West Suffolk would go down, from 1,706 to 743, according to the data.
Conservative leader of Babergh District Council, John Ward has warned that the new system is undeliverable.
“Our commitment is to ensuring growth in Babergh is manageable, and that Babergh remains somewhere everyone is proud to call home, that we encourage the growth of communities with bright and healthy futures,” he said.
“The proposed changes to the national planning system could see the housing need for many districts increasing to what we consider to be undeliverable rates.
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“The proposed changes coupled with the removal of the cap means that many districts will be unable to meet their housing needs if defined by this formula.
“For Babergh District Council the changes will potentially lead to a significant increase in the demand for housing, which could be met either by allowing more development in protected areas or increasing the density of developments in other areas such as towns and core villages.
“This pressure on housing delivery could significantly change the shape of the developments and will also be difficult for communities to engage with or find acceptable.”
The current method of calculating housing need uses a 10-year average of household growth as a baseline, applies adjustments based on how affordable that district’s homes are and then caps the figure a local authority is expected to take.
But the new system will set the baseline by whichever is the highest out of two figures – either the annual household growth over 10 years or 0.5% of that district’s existing housing stock, with increased adjustments on affordability and scrapping the cap on numbers.
The government’s report said: “The government is clear that in order to significantly boost the supply of homes and address the past under-supply as quickly as possible a step change is needed. Capping the level of need is not compatible with this aim.”
But Robert Lindsay, leader of Babergh’s Green group said the new formula would be “devastating for our rural communities” and did not consider the environmental impacts or the types of housing needed.
“These latest proposals, by tinkering with the existing formula to inflate the quota even further, would mean having to concrete over vast swathes of green fields and permanently destroy the character of many of our towns and villages, as well as generating thousands of tonnes more traffic, pollution and carbon emissions,” he warned.
Babergh and Mid Suffolk councils will be finalising their responses later this month, while East Suffolk Council’s cabinet member for planning David Ritchie said the authority was “currently considering the consultations and preparing a response”.
Councils are submitting their representations ahead of the October 1 deadline, although it is not yet clear when the government will be looking to implement changes if it wishes to pursue the new model.
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