SOUTHWOLD residents are being given a chance to have their say on future housing needs in the town.

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Questionnaires have been sent to 1,400 households asking for people’s views on affordable housing, including how much more is needed and where it should go.

Non-residents with a strong local connection are also being invited to complete the survey, including people who have had to move away because property prices are too high and people who need to move into the town for family reasons.

Mayor of Southwold Michael Ladd said the results of the survey would be key in deciding future social housing projects in Southwold.

He said: “I think because councillors live in the town we are very close to what is going on. We have picked up over the last few years that there has been this issue about the house prices. People who work or were brought up in the town find it very difficult if not impossible to stay in Southwold.

“Unless people fill in the housing needs survey and give us that evidence we are working a little bit in the blind. It is important that people do take a little bit of time to complete it and send it off. We have to gather the data and establish the need before we can move forward.”

A report published by the Southwold and Reydon Society in October revealed that second homes and holiday homes now made up 49pc of Southwold’s total housing stock and that its adult population had dropped by 27pc over the past 11 years.

Meanwhile only 8.6pc of Southwold and Reydon’s housing is classified as “social and affordable”, which the report’s authors said was “inadequate provision to meet current needs”.

Mr Ladd said the town council had already expressed an interest in buying the old fire station site, which would be suitable for 12 to 15 affordable properties. He said he would like to see the town council work with Waveney District Council and a housing association on the project.

John Perkins, of The Southwold and Reydon Society, welcomed the latest housing needs survey. He said: “I think it is always sensible to review these issues. Affordable housing is a major issue in a place like Southwold.

“We are now rapidly approaching 50pc of all housing in Southwold being owned by people who don’t live there. It creates enormous problems so this is very timely.”

The survey is being carried out by Suffolk ACRE on behalf of Southwold Town Council. The results are expected to be published within a few months of the January 7 closing date.

Sunila Osborne, rural housing enabler for Suffolk ACRE, assured residents all the personal information collected in the survey would be held in confidence by Suffolk ACRE. She said if a housing need was identified, Suffolk ACRE would help co-ordinate the project with the town and district councils, landowners and housing associations.

She added: “Suffolk ACRE has worked with 32 parishes and successfully helped in the provision of 300 plus homes for local people through local housing needs surveys.”

Households that would like more than one survey and non-residents with a strong local connection can request extra copies from Suffolk Acre on 01473 345344 or Southwold Town Council on 01502 722576.

Owners of second homes in Southwold are being urged to contribute to a document that will help shape future development in the town.

Community volunteers are working on a town plan. A community survey over what should go in the plan will be conducted in late January and February, when questionnaires will be delivered to every home in Southwold.

Second home owners who would like to take part in the survey should leave a stamped, addressed envelope, which is large enough to hold a 36-page A4 brochure, either at the Town Hall or at Spots in Southwold. Respondents should also leave a note inside the envelope showing their Southwold address, so that duplicate questionnaires are not delivered there.

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