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Call for Mid Suffolk District Council to help facilitate new house building

Authorities should be doing more to help facilitate housebuilding, according to a Green councillor.

Andrew Stringer, who represents Upper Gipping ward, said Mid Suffolk District Council’s claims in last week’s Bury Free Press of a ‘housing crisis’ did not ring true.

“There is no housing crisis in planning permission,” said Cllr Stringer. “There is a crisis in getting new houses built and that’s where the council should be doing more.”

Endeavour House, Ipswich (7095959)
Endeavour House, Ipswich (7095959)

He was critical of the council’s decision to borrow £50 million to invest in the joint Babergh commercial property arm Cifco.

“Instead, the district should have borrowed money to build the houses we need to deliver so we can maintain our five year housing land supply,” he said.

Cifco has been criticised for investing outside of the districts. Last month, it was proposed Mid Suffolk and Babergh each borrow an extra £25 million to invest, on top of the £25 million each had already invested – a move which could be approved by full council later this month.

Cllr Stringer said permission now existed for nearly 6,000 new homes in the district: “We have no lack of planning permissions but we do have a huge lack of houses being delivered.

“I have no qualms with the council borrowing money to generate houses here. It is hard to justify the risk when what you have invested in is out of the area.”

Cllr Stringer acknowledged there was no problem with the initial stages of the planning process, however hold-ups appeared to occur further down the line when reaching legal agreements (such as Section 106 payments) and with developers accessing finance. This, he said, was where the council could facilitate new building by helping to fund self-build projects, for example.

“Why couldn’t the local authority help?” he said. “If the authority funded development it would actually help to grow the tax base, it could help to control what is built and the design – it could be win-win.”

Cllr Nick Gowrley, Mid Suffolk cabinet member for assets and investment, said: “Our investments are not an ‘either/or' strategy.Alongside income-generating investments Mid Suffolk has invested heavily in new homes over the last few years, from new council homes in Bramford and Laxfield to planning applications for 135 new homes in Needham Market and a live consultation on the type of housing to be built at the former Stowmarket Middle School.

"We’ve also commissioned experienced consultants to start work on how we can get stalled sites – developers with planning permission that aren’t being built – back on track.”

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