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Government planning reforms cause further concern in West Suffolk

The number of affordable homes in West Suffolk could be ‘significantly reduced’ under new and radical Government proposals to overhaul the planning system.

This is just one of the concerns raised by West Suffolk Council in response to a national consultation on the short and long-term proposals to ‘speed up and streamline’ the planning process.

The government’s Planning For The Future Consultation was sent out to councils in August, on which members of the public are also invited to comment.

West Suffolk House
West Suffolk House

The proposals aim to streamline the planning process, put in place a digital-first planning process, with councils given support from tech companies, introduce a new focus on design and sustainability, improve infrastructure delivery, and make more land available for homes and development ‘people and communities need’. They would also commit local authorities to building 300,000 new nationally each year.

The proposals have already raised concerns at Mid Suffolk and Babergh Distict Councils which say they could threaten key towns, villages and areas of ‘natural beauty’, be undeliverable and also mean a loss of affordable homes.

The Government proposes to increase the small sites threshold, below which developers are not required to contribute to affordable housing, from 10 to 40 or 50 homes.

In a report to West Suffolk Council leader John Griffiths, planning officers have called for more clarity and detail from the government on a number of issues, including infrastructure funding.

The Government suggests s106 and CIL funding be scrapped to be replaced by a National Infrastructure Levy.

The report also questions the move to a centralised planning system with greater public involvement through digital platforms, stating ‘there are no guarantees or detail on how the platform will ensure that engagement’.

The report also raises concerns that the higher threshold of 40 to 50 houses could result in ‘more marginalised schemes coming forward’ which would ‘significantly reduce the amount of affordable housing’, adding that the Government’s proposed First Homes scheme ‘could seriously negatively impact the supply of affordable and social rent homes.

The report states: ‘The impact in West Suffolk is likely to be significant and mean there will be a loss of 116 social-affordable rent homes and 38 shared ownership homes across the district. The council would strongly oppose these proposals.”

The council’s concerns are echoed by Bury St Edmunds Labour Party in its response to the consultation citing a need for affordable housing ‘particularly in light of falling or disappearing incomes and lack of job security.”

The public can comment until October 20 at www.gov.co.uk

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