Onehouse homes pave way for community benefits
Outline plans for 146 houses in Onehouse received the green light today – bringing new footpaths and public open space for the village, and providing low income house-hunters with ‘affordable homes’.
A decision on proposals for the development of land to the south of Union Road was originally scheduled for January, but committee members deferred this to enable the scheme’s affordable housing and landscape impact to be explored further.
Since then, planning officers have worked closely with the applicant, and other stakeholders to seek further clarity on queries raised. The latest plans came back to today’s planning committee meeting, held virtually to guarantee public safety during the current coronavirus outbreak.
After input from planning officers, the local community and the applicant – and subsequent debate – the committee voted by four to four, with the chairperson exercising her casting vote, in favour of authorising the chief planning officer to approve outline planning permission for the scheme, subject to conditions and Section 106 planning obligations.
Plans include a minimum of 31 ‘affordable homes’, responding to identified local need and allowing residents on the council’s housing register to benefit from lower rents than the local market rate. Opportunities for shared ownership will also be provided, helping those struggling to get on the housing ladder to buy their own home.
Following a request from committee members to maximise the housing offered for low income families, there is scope for this figure to increase, if funding becomes available from other unspent developer contributions. An additional contribution for the provision of affordable homes off-site has also been agreed to by the applicant.
Concerns previously raised about the impact of proposals on the surrounding landscape will be addressed at the reserved matters stage, when a decision is made on final details of the scheme. This will allow conditions to be imposed to ensure the use of appropriate building styles, materials and landscape planting to help mitigate the visual impacts of the development.
Another obligation set out by the council, will see the applicant finance a travel plan to promote greener modes of transport, as well as new links to the existing footpath and cycle network – securing safe pedestrian and cycle access from Union Road to Finborough Road for school children and the local community.
Onehouse residents will also be able to make use of the public open space and play area offered by the development.
A range of measures have been considered to minimise potential impact from the new homes on the local community and environment. Proposals incorporate wildlife mitigation, a biodiversity enhancement scheme, advance planting, wildlife sensitive lighting and a construction environmental management plan – with the option of further conditions being implemented if necessary.
In addition, the development will adhere to a sustainability scheme, which includes water, energy and resource efficiency measures. Water butts and electric vehicle charging points will also be provided to promote environmentally friendly options to residents.
Cllr Kathie Guthrie, Chair of Mid Suffolk District Council’s Development Control Committee B said:
“This was a difficult decision on an application which addressed concerns previously raised in January, but has still been met with opposition from local residents. In acknowledgement of this, our committee sought additional reassurances on the development’s advance planting and accordance to the design context plan, which I’m pleased were agreed. After much consideration, it was felt that provided all conditions set out today are met, the extensive benefits of proposals outweigh any potential harm.
“The development offers affordable housing within walking distance of the local school and other amenities, and will pave the way for public open space and a new play area – supporting our vision for communities with bright and healthy futures.
“Our council remains committed to sustainable development – as we all work towards a greener Suffolk – and I am pleased that officers have secured a sustainability scheme to minimise the impact of proposals on the environment. Further sustainable transport options for Onehouse will also be provided with plans including footpath improvements to ensure pedestrian safety in the village.”
Also during the meeting, the committee voted unanimously to defer a decision on planning permission for 141 new homes on Gun Cotton Way, Stowmarket. This will provide scope to explore the potential inclusion of a play area in plans, following concerns from councillors about the development’s residents being required to cross a main road to access nearby parks.