Rural Housing Week 5 July to 9 July 2021

05 Jul 2021

Members of West Suffolk Council and Orbit Group at the opening of the rural exception scheme in Beck Row which saw the development of 39 affordable homes for those with a local connection to the village and surrounding parishes.

As part of Rural Housing Week which is a national campaign running from 5 July to 9 July 2021, West Suffolk Council is highlighting the importance of its work supporting our rural communities. New and affordable housing plays a role in sustaining our rural communities and supporting important rural services such as village halls, shops and pubs and transport.

The Council is working on a new local plan for West Suffolk Council, which will provide an opportunity for us to consider the best place for new housing growth, which government sets. West Suffolk Council also continues to secure affordable homes as planning applications come forward for the sites in our existing local plan. The Council's policy requires developments of 10 homes or more must include 30 per cent affordable housing.

Last year the Council met the annual housing target which government set out and also delivered 297 affordable homes, of which just under 40 per cent were delivered across our rural communities.

The Council knows there is a need for affordable housing. West Suffolk Council currently has 2124 households on its housing register. This compares to 1966 this time last year. Being on the housing register does not mean that a household doesn’t already have a home or even an affordable home. It means the household, whether it be a person living on their own, a couple or a family, is waiting to find suitable affordable housing for their needs within West Suffolk. This could be to up or downsize or move to a different location.

Rural housing can benefit a wide range of people within a community, from those wishing to make their first step onto the housing ladder to those wishing to downsize. Communities have the power to influence change, by planning for a thriving and sustainable future in a number of ways. This includes engaging with consultation at key stages in the local plan preparation, the next consultation will take place in 2022. Communities can also prepare their neighbourhood plans which can allocate housing. In June the Council agreed the adoption of Great Barton neighbourhood plan and there are currently seven other communities who have started work on this process. In addition, the Council has a rural exception policy which supports the delivery of affordable housing in rural areas.

Rural exception sites are small sites that are acquired for affordable housing where development would not otherwise be permitted. The aim is to provide housing for people who have a local connection to a particular village and who would otherwise be unable to afford market housing within that village. They are most commonly located adjacent to the existing village boundary but outside of the current settlement boundary. The sites are usually no bigger than 10 dwellings. In most cases, all dwellings will be affordable. However, a minimum amount of open market housing may be included if it is required to make the scheme financially viable.

West Suffolk has seen exception sites brought forward in Clare, Freckenham and Worlington, Great Barton and Icklingham. In Beck Row, Orbit Homes delivered 39 affordable homes for those with a local connection to the village and surrounding parishes. These included a range of 1,2,3 and 4 bedroom homes for affordable rent and shared ownership in line with identified the local housing need.

In 2020 West Suffolk commissioned Community Action Suffolk to assist in pro-actively working with a number of selected Parish Councils to bring forward affordable housing in rural areas. Community Action Suffolk are currently working with five parish councils to identify local housing need.

West Suffolk have also recently supported the new Eastern Community Homes Hub which will provide expertise advice, support and practical resources for groups including Parish Councils interested in affordable community-led housing projects.

West Suffolk Council is keen to work with Parish Councils and communities to investigate housing need. If you are interested in discussing how the Council can support the delivery of neighbourhood plans, rural affordable housing or exception schemes in your area, please contact housing.development@westsuffolk.gov.uk


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