Regional housing conference at The Apex, in Bury St Edmunds

Homes are vital to support communities, health, education and business growth – but ensuring that there are enough, and the right kind of homes is a challenge.

That is why West Suffolk councils brought together some of the biggest national names in the housing industry to grapple with issues around affordability, quality of housing and the need for homes to be adaptable to suit people’s changing needs particularly as they get older.

The councils hosted a regional housing conference at The Apex in Bury St Edmunds, yesterday.

Lord Best OBE DL, the House of Lords spokesman on social housing talked about the need to achieve sustainable and inclusive communities, Tony Pidgley CBE, chairman of Berkeley Homes Group, discussed the importance of understanding housing needs when designing new areas, while Sir Edward Lister, chairman of Homes England, spoke of the challenges in housing delivery and how they might be addressed.

ITV Anglia’s Becky Jago presented the event and put questions to a panel representing national house builders, contractors, registered providers, adult social care and specialists in modular homes.

The event comes at the same time that West Suffolk is shaping its Housing Strategy, a vision that could see it take on a greater role in delivering new homes as well as placing further emphasis on bringing existing empty homes back into use and where it can, helping adapt homes to people’s changing needs.

Currently the council allocates land for new homes and decides on the subsequent planning applications – but sometimes permitted homes don’t get built.

Under the strategy West Suffolk could look at ways to bring these sites forward while achieving income on behalf of the taxpayer. It may also seek consent for outline permission for sites and then offer them to developers as a way of reducing the risk for small builders. The council will also look to encourage new types of housing including modular homes.

Sara Mildmay-White, West Suffolk’s Cabinet Member for Housing, said: “Homes need to be affordable for our communities, they need to be available to enable companies to compete by retaining and attracting new staff. The quality of a home can impact on people’s health and education – and with our aging population one of the big challenges is about how homes can be adapted to suit people’s changing health needs which currently has a huge impact on the NHS in terms of costs and availability of beds.

“New homes also help pay towards new infrastructure – roads, schools, surgeries, and community facilities. But the council cannot do it all on its own which is why we brought together house builders, registered providers, senior figures in social care and others involved in housing from across the region for this important and insightful event.

“All of this is about ensuring that West Suffolk not only continues to be a place where people want to live, but also a place where they can.”

Pictured above are John Griffiths, leader of St Edmundsbury Borough Council; Tony Pidgley CBE, chairman of Berkeley Homes Group; Lord Best OBE DL, the House of Lords spokesman on social housing; Anna Rose, head of the Planning Advisory Service; Becky Jago, presenter from ITV Anglia presenter; Sir Edward Lister, chairman of Homes England; Sara Mildmay-White, West Suffolk councils Cabinet Member for Housing; and James Waters, leader of Forest Heath District Council.

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