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Suffolk County Council's Conservative leaders announce housebuilding plan

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Suffolk County Council has outlined plans to sell off some of its land for development of housing.

The Tory-run authority's leader Matthew Hicks announced in May that vacant land and properties could be sold. And last week leaders clarified these would ensure developments would include much-needed infrastructure improvements such as schools, GP surgeries and road improvements, and make sure they were suitable for those communities.

Matthew Hicks, leader of Suffolk County Council
Matthew Hicks, leader of Suffolk County Council

Fellow Tory cabinet member Nick Gowrley said: “We need to make it quite clear it’s a county council approach to housing – how we can use our assets for the betterment of the people of Suffolk.

“We are trying to make sure we get best value for our land. But it’s not just about finances it’s also about the social value we can add to the project.

“It gives us a degree of influence because we are developing our own land that we need to make the most of.”

It is understood the council has around 50 vacant buildings, including some former middle schools, as well as single properties, offices and other buildings.

As part of the council’s new approach to its property, investigations are underway into forming a joint venture company to work on the early stages of development and financial arrangements, utilising private sector skills and spreading the risk. It is understood it will not be a house building company, although no formal decision has been made yet.

The plan means property that is no longer needed can be developed to generate income and protect cutbacks from frontline services.

A report will be presented before the full council in the new year.

Labour group leader Sarah Adams said: “I hope this is a better-thought out proposal than the Conservatives’ Barley Homes disaster, a project that failed to build a single home despite costing taxpayers tens of thousands of pounds.

“All local authorities in Suffolk must be properly consulted to ensure that this strategy fits with plans."