There’s a week left for people to have their say on where new homes can and can’t be built in West Suffolk and where land should be set aside for employment growth.
The West Suffolk Local Plan “Preferred Options” consultation – the second stage of public consultation in the creation of a local plan – closes next Tuesday, July 26.
The consultation, which has been running since May 26, has already seen 16 public exhibition events take place where people could come along, find out more about the latest stage of the plan, and how they can have their say.
People can still participate by visiting an online exhibition at https://westsuffolk.exhibition.app/
Alternatively, residents can email email@example.com or phone 01284 757368 to find out other ways that they can get involved.
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 draft local plan 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 current public consultation seeks views on these “policy parameters” as well as the sites.
David Roach, cabinet member for Planning at West Suffolk Council, said: “The local plan is about ensuring our communities’ future housing needs are met and that there’s land for businesses to grow and flourish in West Suffolk. Having a local plan in place is vital, so a huge thank you to everyone who has taken the time to look at this draft of the plan and have had their say.
“Whether we have a local plan or not, development will still happen. But having a plan means that we and our communities have more of a local democratic voice over the development that comes forward. It offers greater protection to greenfield sites and the countryside. It means we can stop inappropriate, speculative development from taking place. It means we have more safeguards to stop employment land being used for housing. And it means that we can prevent inappropriate garden and infill development from occurring. So, if you haven’t already, take part. It’s your future, your say, your West Suffolk.”
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 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.
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.
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.