#YourFuture #YourSay #YourWestSuffolk

19 Apr 2022

The latest stage of a plan to help communities thrive, improve health and wellbeing, grow the economy, and protect and improve the environment, is to be discussed.

The West Suffolk Local Plan covers the period up to 2040 and will eventually become a legal planning document. It allocates and guides where land is protected and where opportunities for development might take place, such as for new housing or land for employment.

The local plan also contains the policies that secures the delivery of affordable housing, new play areas and public open space, supported by infrastructure such as improvements to health and educational facilities, as well as roads.

Without a 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 

The creation of a local plan has to go through several stages with public consultation as set out by the Government. The evolving local plan has already gone through 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.

Now the Council is preparing to go out to public consultation again, this time on its “preferred options.”

That in turn will lead to another public consultation next year on the “submission” draft of the plan, taking on board feedback and evidence before finally submitting the plan to the Secretary of State. He or she 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 agree to adopt.

Next week (26 April) West Suffolk Council’s Cabinet will be asked to recommend to Council on 17 May, that public consultation on the preferred options draft begins on 26 May.

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.

Full details on how people can have their say will be published when the preferred options consultation launches.

Cllr David Roach, Cabinet Member for Planning at West Suffolk Council said: “The local plan is crucial to meeting housing need so our communities have somewhere to live, and that homes can be built that are good quality, meeting space guidance and adaptable to support people’s changing health needs as they get older. The plan is also vital to businesses – not only in providing sites where different types of business growth may take place.

“With or without a plan, development happens. But without an up-to-date plan, we and our residents 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.”

“We have listened to what people have had to say during the first stage of consultation and we have responded and have already excluded some sites from going forward. We have also updated the scope of our draft policies guidelines including how the plan will address climate change and increase biodiversity, as well as the role that good homes can have in aiding people’s health and wellbeing.”

“Subject to approval by councillors at Cabinet and Council, we look forward to going back out to public consultation on this next stage from 26 May. It’s so important that people across West Suffolk get involved and take part. It’s your future, your say, your West Suffolk.”

Alongside the public consultation, subject to Cabinet and Council approval, the Council will also issue a further call for sites. This is because there’s an insufficient 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. Alongside this 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.

The Cabinet report which includes details of the “preferred options” for strategic, non-strategic policies and settlements within West Suffolk, can be found at https://democracy.westsuffolk.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=521&MId=4968&Ver=4

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