There’s still time have your say and shape the future of where new homes can be built and where employment growth may take place in West Suffolk.
When it is finalised and adopted, the West Suffolk Local Plan, which covers the period up to 2040, will be used to decide planning applications and will guide where land such as countryside is protected as well as where development for new housing or land for employment can take place.
The Local Plan will also contain the policies that will secure the delivery of affordable housing, new play areas, green public open space, health and education facilities, and transport provision.
The government sets out the several stage of public consultation that a draft local plan must go through. The draft West Suffolk Local Plan completed its first stage of public consultation in 2020, on the issues and options.
From that feedback, national guidance and emerging evidence, the council has dismissed some sites and included others for potential development – and it is now seeking feedback on this, as part of its “preferred options” consultation.
The council is also carrying out a “call for sites” to ensure it has explored all possible options before it concludes the sites selected for the final draft local plan, which is due to go out to consultation next year.
The draft local plan also includes some of the early shaping for policies on how development will address climate change, increase biodiversity, and aid people’s health and wellbeing including through homes that can adapt to support people’s changing health needs as they grow older. The public consultation seeks views on these “policy parameters” as well as the sites.
In total, the future housing need identified by government, means that 15,200 more homes will be needed in West Suffolk by 2040. While 8,600 of these already have planning permission, at least 6,600 homes need to be identified through the new local plan.
The preferred options stage includes land for 7,134 homes. This over allocation is because the Council must 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.
Of the land identified for the 7,134 homes, only 2,600 of these homes are on new sites that have been put forward.
The preferred options consultation will run to July 26, 2022, and residents can find out more and have their say by visiting the virtual exhibition at https://westsuffolk.exhibition.app/
They can also come along to any one of the public exhibition events taking place in the following towns and villages below.
- Friday, June 24, at Ixworth Village Hall, from 3pm to 6.45pm;
- Saturday, June 25, at Mildenhall Hub, from 9am to 4.30pm;
- Wednesday, June 29, at Bury St Edmunds, market from 9am to 4pm;
- Thursday, June 30, at Lakenheath Peace Memorial Hall, from 3pm to 7pm;
- Saturday, July 21, at Haverhill Market, from 9am to 3pm;
- Wednesday, July 6, at Newmarket King Edward VII Memorial Hall; from 4pm to 6pm;
- Saturday, July 9, at Brandon Market, from 9am to 1pm; and
- Saturday, July 16, at Newmarket, in The Guineas Shopping Centre outside the library and The Pantry, from 9am to 4.30pm.
Alternatively, residents can email email@example.com or telephone 01284 757368 to find out other ways that they can participate.
David Roach, cabinet member for Planning at West Suffolk Council, said: “The local plan is crucial to meeting housing needs, so our communities have somewhere to live. And its key to ensuring land is allocated for different types of businesses, supporting their ambitions and with it jobs and the future of our communities.
“We know that without a local plan, development will still happen, but we, and our communities would have less of a voice. We know that without a plan, we can’t prevent inappropriate, speculative from taking place. Without it we can’t offer as much protection to greenfield sites and the countryside. Without it, we would have fewer safeguards to stop employment land being used for housing. And without it, we could well end up with other inappropriate garden, infill, and other development that none of us want to see.
“That’s why it is so important that people of all ages take the time to local at the draft plan and have their say. It’s your future, your say, your West Suffolk.”
The preferred options consultation will lead to further changes to the draft local plan. There will then be 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 appoint a Planning Inspector to carry out an independent examination. Only after the Planning Inspector has found the plan acceptable, can the local plan be recommended to a meeting of the council to seek its adoption.
Alongside the public consultation, the council is also issuing a further call for sites. This is because the last call for sites did not generate enough 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.