It’s almost time to have #YourSay and shape West Suffolk’s future
Residents from across West Suffolk will have their chance from next week to have their say on where new homes are built and employment growth takes place.
Councillors have this evening (17 May) given their backing for public consultation on the next stage of the West Suffolk Local Plan, due to begin next week.
The West Suffolk Local Plan covers the period up to 2040 and will eventually become a legal document used as the basis for deciding planning applications. It guides where land such as countryside is protected and where development for new housing or land for employment can take place.
The local plan also contains the policies that will secure the delivery of affordable housing, new play areas, green public open space, health and education facilities, transport provision. And it contains the basis for policies that will address climate change, increase biodiversity, and aid people’s health and wellbeing including homes that can adapt to support people’s changing health needs as they grow older.
Without a local plan, development can and will still happen – but the council and the residents will have less of a voice and less certainty over the council’s approval or refusal of applications that come forward. Without an up-to-date local plan, the council won’t be able to prevent inappropriate, speculative development from taking place as national guidance would favour sustainable development. That in turn would mean less protection for greenfield sites and the countryside, fewer safeguards to stop employment land being used for housing, as well as inappropriate garden, infill and other development that negatively impacts on local communities.
Public consultation on the preferred options sites and emerging policies will start next Thursday 26 May and run until 26 July. It is the second stage of public consultation on the draft plan, following “Issues and Options” consultation in 2020.
West Suffolk Council is encouraging residents and businesses to have their say either through its online virtual village hall the details of which will be publicised next week, or by coming along to the public exhibition events taking place in the following towns and villages below.
Saturday 18 June 3pm – 7pm
Kedington community centre – committee room
Friday 10 June 3pm – 7pm
The creation of a local plan has to go through several stages of public consultation as set out by the Government. The evolving local plan has already undertaken a call for sites and an Issues and Options public consultation in 2020.
Public feedback from that stage, conversations with stakeholders and emerging evidence and national policy guidance has been used to narrow down the sites for consideration. It has also helped the creation of new policy guidelines, which will eventually become future planning policies to be used in planning decisions.
This consultation on the preferred options will lead to further changes to the draftlocal plan and will followed by another public consultation next year on the “submission” draft of the plan. Finally, the plan will be submitted to the Secretary of State who will then appoint a Planning Inspector to carry out an independent examination – and it is only after the Planning Inspector has found the plan acceptable, that the local plan can be recommended to a meeting of the council to seek its adoption.
The preferred options report suggests which sites should go forward in the plan including early indicative numbers for how many homes could be built on a site.
In total, the Government has identified that 15,200 more homes will be needed in West Suffolk by 2040 to meet future housing needs. Some 8,600 of these already have planning permission which leaves land for at least 6,600 homes to be identified through the new local plan. The preferred options stage includes land for 7,134 homes – this is because the Council has to over allocate to provide a level of choice and certainty that it will meet its housing needs. The preferred options are made up of new sites as well as sites in the existing plans of the former St Edmundsbury Borough and Forest Heath District councils that are yet to gain planning permission, and which are now being reassessed as part of this new local plan.
This isn’t the final plan but it is a key stage in its preparation. The plan is evolving as we engage, listen and take on board the feedback given.
The local plan is crucial to meeting housing needs so our communities have somewhere to live, that homes are built to good quality and are adaptable to support people’s changing health needs as they get older. The plan also allocates land for different types of businesses, supporting their ambitions and with it jobs and the future of our communities.
“To not have a local plan would be to fail our residents. Without an up-to-date plan, we and our residents would have less say over how we manage development, protect the countryside and other greenfield sites, secure affordable housing and make sure that health, education, and roads improvements keep pace with growth. Without a plan, we and our residents would have little or no voice over the development that will come forward.”
“That is why it is so important that when the consultation opens on Thursday next week, people take the time to look at this latest draft plan and have their say. Through this they will be helping to shape the future of communities and employment in West Suffolk. It’s #YourSay, YourFuture, #YourWestSuffolk.”
Full details on how people can have their say will be published when the preferred options consultation launches next Thursday (26 May).
Alongside the public consultation, the Council will also issue a further call for sites. This is because the last call for sites did not generate a sufficient quantity of smaller housing sites of one hectare or less to comply with national Government policy, and to ensure a wide choice of employment sites to meet the demand established in an employment land review. The Council will also issue a call for sites specifically to identify land for Gypsies, Travellers and Travelling Showpeople. The Council has statutory duties and an assessment is being undertaken with some initial findings indicating accommodation needs.