Residents from across West Suffolk will have their chance from next week to have their say on where new homes are built and employment growth takes place.
It comes after councillors gave their backing for public consultation on the next stage of the West Suffolk Local Plan.
The plan covers the period up to 2040 and will eventually become a legal document used as the basis for deciding planning applications. It guides where land such as countryside is protected and where development for new housing or land for employment can take place.
The local plan also contains the policies that will secure the delivery of affordable housing, new play areas, green public open space, health and education facilities, transport provision. And it contains the basis for policies that will address climate change, increase biodiversity, and aid people’s health and wellbeing including homes that can adapt to support people’s changing health needs as they grow older.
Without a local 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.
Public consultation on the preferred options sites and emerging policies will start next Thursday, May 26, and run until July 26. It is the second stage of public consultation on the draft plan, following “Issues and Options” consultation in 2020.
West Suffolk Council is encouraging residents and businesses to have their say either through its online virtual village hall, the details of which will be publicised next week, or by coming along to the public exhibition events taking place in the following towns and villages:
|Barrow village hall – main hall||Wednesday 8 June||3pm to 7pm|
|Brandon market||Saturday 9 July||9am to 1pm|
|Bury St Edmunds – The Apex||Saturday 11 June||10am to 4.30pm|
|Bury St Edmunds market||Wednesday 29 June||9am to 4pm|
|Clare market||Saturday 18 June||9am to 1.30pm|
|Haverhill market||Saturday 2 July||9am to 3pm|
|Ixworth village hall – main hall||Friday 24 June||3pm to 6.45pm|
|Kedington community centre – committee room||Friday 10 June||3pm to 7pm|
|Lakenheath Peace Memorial Hall||Thursday 30 June||3pm to 7pm|
|Mildenhall Hub||Saturday 25 June||9am to 4.30pm|
|Newmarket – The Guineas shopping centre outside the library and The Pantry||Tuesday 14 June||9am to 3pm|
|Newmarket – The Guineas shopping centre outside the library and The Pantry||Saturday 16 July||9am to 4.30pm|
|Red Lodge Sports Pavilion||Wednesday 22 June||3pm to 6.30pm|
|Stanton Village Hall – small hall/lounge||Thursday 16 June||3pm to 7pm|
The creation of a local plan has to go through several stages of public consultation as set out by the government. The evolving local plan has already undertaken 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.
This consultation on the preferred options will lead to further changes to the draft local plan and will be followed by another public consultation next year on the “submission” draft of the plan. Finally, the plan will be submitted to the Secretary of State who 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 seek its adoption.
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.
David Roach, cabinet member for Planning at West Suffolk Council said: “This isn’t the final plan but it is a key stage in its preparation. The plan is evolving as we engage, listen and take on board the feedback given.”
Alongside the public consultation, the Council will also issue a further call for sites. This is because the last call for sites did not generate a sufficient 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.
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.