Campaigners voice fears over impact of housing need in Suffolk

Saturday, December 28, 2013
8:15 AM

A rush to meet housing quotas has left east Suffolk vulnerable to vast swathes of inappropriate development being dumped on unwilling communities, campaigners have claimed.

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The Suffolk Preservation Society fears the county’s distinctive character is under threat as planning authorities scrabble to meet obligations for new homes.

Society chairman Fiona Cairns said: “We are vulnerable to schemes coming forward that maybe are not of a calibre that we would want in terms of density and quality.

“There’s a shortfall in allocated housing land available, so all the checks and balances they would normally impose to make sure standards were maintained have been taken away.

“Suddenly they are having to argue from a very weak position and the developer no longer has to make a strong case – this is almost like a punishment from the government for not permitting enough development sooner. We are trying to control the process from the back seat with the developers doing all the driving.”

Whereas planners in authorities such as St Edmundsbury kept ahead of their housing obligations over the past 20 years, Ms Cairn claims those in Suffolk Coastal – where 7,900 homes are needed during the next 15 years – have fallen behind.

“Suffolk Coastal is under tremendous pressure to find specific places for hundreds of new homes and are in a pretty invidious position because there are not enough brownfield sites available for them,” she said. “The problem is that they didn’t have a five-year plan in place, so it’s pretty much invalidated all of their planning polices.”

Geoff Holdcroft, Suffolk Coastal’s cabinet member responsible for planning, said the local plans would be forthcoming once parish councils had responded.

“It would have been desirable to have had the plans sooner,” he said. But despite conceding the district was “vulnerable to speculation” until the plan’s completion, Mr Holdcroft maintained the housing market would safeguard against inappropriate developments.

“We are not going to just dump people in towns that can’t absorb their numbers,” he added.

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