I wanted to provide you with an update of what West Suffolk Council has been doing so far in respect of the Local Plan. Importantly, the council has not yet began looking at any of the detail of where new housing growth should go or how many houses individual towns or villages should have.
As you are aware, we have already had a call for sites with landowners and developers putting forward sites for potential development. These are not our preferred options. That work comes later.
Alongside this sits our Strategic Housing and Economic Land Availability Assessment or SHELAA. This does serve to narrow down the options, not in terms of what we think is preferable but focuses on what is available. This document along with other pieces of evidence will help inform decision making – refine options and select allocations to be consulted in March 2022.
We have looked at the purpose of a local plan and what it means if we don’t have one. Not having a viable local plan causes issues not just in terms of housing and reputation but also financially.
In summary, developers will still put forward housing applications but without a local plan we will either have to accept whatever comes in or refuse and fight them on appeal. This will be costly and, without a local plan to fall back on, will also not be very successful. Without a local plan, we will also be forced to take an extra 20 per cent of housing in addition to our current allocation and there are financial penalties as well. I think we can agree it is not a place we want to be in.
What does the local plan do? It manages development, it tells developers where we will accept housing growth and where we will not. It allocates our housing numbers across the district and in so doing it puts us in a better position to seek the necessary infrastructure requirements to secure good growth, rather than the piecemeal development we would otherwise get.
A working group has been set up and has discussed:
* Our vision and objectives for what the local plan should achieve
* What the National Planning Policy Framework means for our own local plan which will cover up to the year 2040
* The comments received and key issues raised following the issues and options consultation
* The importance of our work engaging with key stakeholders including those responsible for supplying the infrastructure required to support growth as well as neighbouring authorities
The council has also looked at some of the strategic themes that we need include in shaping some of our decision making on the plan. These include:
* Homes and healthy communities with affordable housing, a range of different housing types to suit a range of need
* Rural communities
* Supporting the continuing success and growth of the Horse Racing Industry
* Neighbourhood plans
* Sustainable transport
* Education and culture provision
* Climate change
* Supporting the growth of businesses and the economy through housing supply.
We haven’t got into the fuller detail of our allocation and distribution yet, but we have discussed our settlement strategy which is essentially about ensuring the sustainability of our rural areas.