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Councillors approve foundation for future growth

Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils recently finalised their Joint Local Plan – paving the way for sustainable housing growth, employment opportunities, and thriving communities with bright and healthy futures.

Councillors at Mid Suffolk District Council gave the go-ahead for the document at its Full Council meeting on Wednesday (11 November), following Babergh District Council approving the latest version of the plan on Tuesday.

Both councils moved to prepare a Joint Local Plan in 2016, and careful consideration has been given to how Babergh and Mid Suffolk could deliver housing, important infrastructure, and essential employment until 2037. As part of this, a public consultation was undertaken in 2017 – with residents, local businesses and other stakeholders invited to have their say on proposals.

Over 14,000 representations were received, and this subsequently informed the preferred options consultation in July 2019. Following further public feedback being received, a cross-party working group, along with officers, have worked extensively to reflect these views and revise the plan accordingly, supported by an extensive evidence base.

The final version of the plan details how and where development should take place – ensuring suitable homes are built to meet the housing targets set by Government, whilst also protecting and enhancing the districts’ natural environment and heritage. Sustainable development and transport options have been promoted in the plan to meet the councils’ continued commitment to addressing climate change.

Infrastructure, enabling facilities to keep pace with population growth, is central to the delivery of the plan and is supported by a detailed Infrastructure Delivery Plan. Importance has also been given to developing the local economy, revitalising town centres and encouraging tourism.

These key priorities are supported by the accompanying evidence base to ensure the plan’s soundness and deliverability. Officers have also worked with partners, such as Highways England, the Environment Agency, Historic England and others, to co-ordinate a strategic approach.

Once the plan’s evidence has started to be tested, it is set to carry increased weight in the planning decision making process and will guide development in Babergh and Mid Suffolk in the long term.

Before the plan can be formally adopted by both councils, it must be submitted for examination to the Secretary of State. Prior to submission of the plan for examination, there will be a six-week period inviting representations on the legal compliance and soundness of the plan. These representations will be submitted to the Planning Inspectorate for consideration during the examination, and may result in recommendations for modifications to be made to the plan.

With changes to national planning policies, including local plans, potentially arising following the Government’s recent planning consultations, cross-party councillors acknowledge the need to finalise the plan promptly in an attempt to protect the districts from future unsuitable development.

Cllr Clive Arthey, Babergh District Council Cabinet Member for Planning said:

“I have been involved in local government for almost thirty years and this plan is supported by more evidence that we have ever had to support a Local Plan.

“The extensive work from officers and councillors has resulted in, what I believe is, the very best plan that we could submit. It is a step forward in providing for the existing and future needs of our residents and communities, and  I hope it provides comfort  that we remain committed to ensuring development in Babergh is suitable and sustainable.

“I know that how and where development takes place is incredibly important to us all, and can have a significant impact on our facilities and landscape. All those with an interest in the plan now have the opportunity to make representations for consideration by the Planning Inspectorate.”

Cllr David Burn, Mid Suffolk District Council Cabinet Member for Planning said:

Our Joint Local Plan is a robust and detailed framework for future development in Mid Suffolk. It shows how we propose to achieve the housing target that Government expects from us, protect our environment, address climate change and help enrich biodiversity. It also sets out a strategy for securing the important infrastructure that will be needed to support the housing growth and that of our local economy.  

“The Government recently announced its intention to make profound changes to the planning system but how soon they will come into effect is unclear. It is crucial that we submit this Joint Local Plan now in order to create a period of relative stability to help defend our Districts from inappropriate development during what may well become a period of considerable change.

”The present consultation is chiefly concerned with the Plan’s soundness and legality but anyone may submit a representation. Unlike previous consultations the representations received for this one are sent to an Inspector, who has scope to modify the plan if deemed necessary. Representations must be made in writing on a representation form and we would encourage these to be made online via the Joint Local Plan page of Babergh or Mid Suffolk District Councils’ websites by noon on 24 December.”