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Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils welcome decision to allow work on Joint Local Plan to continue

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Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils have welcomed a decision by planning inspectors to allow work on their Joint Local Plan to continue – meaning the councils can ensure the right developments happen in the right places at the right time.

Public examination of the Local Plan, the strategic outline for future development of the districts, was paused earlier this year to allow the councils further time to review their evidence.

An exploratory meeting was held with the councils and inspectors yesterday during which a proposed work programme was agreed that would see the councils have an adopted plan next year, helping to shape the future for Babergh and Mid Suffolk’s communities.

Endeavour House, headquarters of Mid Suffolk District Council.
Endeavour House, headquarters of Mid Suffolk District Council.

Work on the Joint Local Plan began in 2016 when the councils began gathering a range of evidence to help inform its preparation, including studies on retail, economic land needs, housing land availability and housing market assessments.

The plan was then further developed following consultation with submission of more than 14,000 comments from over 1,300 people and input from both statutory consultees and cross-party councillors.

The plan – which outlines housing requirements and considers the long-term impact of climate change, including flooding risk, water supply and biodiversity as well as other matters such as supporting the economy and our town centres – is now nearing the final stages of the process.

This involves a review by planning inspectors, who are appointed by the Secretary of State, to carry out an independent examination before recommending whether or not it can be adopted.

The inspectors’ proposals, agreed yesterday, will see the councils now proceed with their Joint Local Plan in two parts.

Important social, economic and environmental objectives will be put in place first, while remaining work on spatial strategy matters and housing allocations are addressed in part two.

This means the council will have an up-to-date plan for decision making.

The inspectors gave assurances in the meantime that they recognised around 90 per cent of the housing requirement that Babergh and Mid Suffolk needs to provide is already earmarked through existing commitments and Neighbourhood Plan allocations – meaning the councils can demonstrate they are meeting housing needs while the second part of the Joint Local Plan is developed.

Tom Barker, assistant director of Planning at Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Council, said: “We would like to thank everyone involved to date in the development of our Joint Local Plan which, when adopted, will provide a clear and transparent guide to future development in our districts, balancing the needs of all our communities.”

Councillor David Burn, Mid Suffolk District Council’s Cabinet Member for Planning, said: “I am pleased that today’s decision means we can still look forward to having an adopted Joint Local Plan in 2022, as this plan is key to helping to shape the future of Mid Suffolk.

"It will determine how our towns and villages develop, how we protect and enhance our natural environment, develop our local economy, improve leisure and visitor facilities, improve social infrastructure and support more sustainable forms of travel."

Councillor Clive Arthey, Babergh District Council’s Cabinet Member for Planning, said: “Development is something that comes up time and again when talking with our residents.

"We want everyone to understand how we’re going to provide the housing and the jobs needed in Babergh, and look forward to having this clearly laid out in an adopted Joint Local Plan.

"There is still plenty of work to do in the months ahead, but today’s agreement means with can press on with clarity.”