Letter in EADT – “We need a complete re-think on new housing”

“Dear  Sir, a couple of weeks ago, the EADT published a letter from Michael Cole about the shocking and depressing experience of watching Suffolk Coastal District Council’s version of democracy in action – he was talking about a planning application on land next to his. I am aware that the Council’s Scrutiny Committee is reviewing the functioning of the Planning Department because of concerns expressed by some of the parish councils and other bodies. Now I learn that Cllr Sherrie Green has been removed from Suffolk Coastal DC’s Cabinet, apparently because she suggested that the Council should revisit the Local Development Framework following the change in Government policy and “be honest with local people”.  The Leader of the Council (Cllr Herring) was quoted as saying that she had been replaced “in the best interests of the Cabinet”. I am appalled to think that the powers that be at SCDC consider it more important to pursue “the best interests of the Cabinet” than the best interests of the people living, working and visiting the District!

In the Council’s latest edition of its Coastline magazine, with regards to the recent changes to national planning policy, Cllr Smith said: “Until the uncertainty is cleared up by the Government, we are not sure how we can proceed with meeting the proven need for more homes for our residents”.   What his remark does not expand on is what is meant by ”proven need for more homes for our residents”.   The forecast up to 2031 from the now defunct East of England Regional Assembly showed that 87% of all new housing was for inward migration to Suffolk from other parts of the country.  And SCDC was even planning to exceed the EERA housing targets for its portion of the Ipswich Policy Area – the housing allocation for Martlesham (next to BT’s Adastral Park) was changed very late on in the LDF process to be twice that originally required by EERA.

The Council ignored the outcome of the last round of consultation where almost all the responses from hundreds of local people opposed the housing allocations in Trimley and Martlesham. The outcome of the whole LDF saga is that, nearly three years on and after three rounds of “consultation”,  SCDC has decided on a housing distribution that was the least popular, in the District as a whole, of the options that they originally put forward right at the start.  It is still the least popular. The difference now is that housing targets are no longer being imposed, so at last, the Council can make its own decisions about what is really needed for its residents. On every page, the Coastline magazine says “Suffolk Coastal, where quality of life counts”.  Try saying that  to people in Trimley,  Newbourne, Waldringfield, Martlesham etc. who are faced with the prospect of thousands of homes being built on greenfield land in their localities.

What the people of Suffolk Coastal now deserve is a complete reappraisal of the real need for more homes, as Cllr Green suggested.  This should result in a Local Development Framework which is based on a new forecast of ACTUAL housing need, followed up with GENUINE public consultation.  Eric Pickles, the new Communities and Local Government Secretary, has now removed all the targets and constraints that prevented SCDC from doing this. He said ”It will no longer be possible to concrete over large swathes of the country without any regard to what local people want.”  To all Suffolk Coastal’s councillors – please heed those words.

Yours faithfully

Stephen Denton

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