Land supply figure 'too little too late' says opposition
PUBLISHED: 13:13 21 August 2019 | UPDATED: 13:13 21 August 2019
Claims by two Suffolk councils that they now have a five year housing land supply have been described as "too little too late".
Councils are required to demonstrate they have a five year supply of housing land, or risk being open to threats from speculative developers.
Councils without a five-year land supply must look more in favour of approving applications of any kind, meaning the risks of speculative developers trying their hand on developing a site increases.
It also creates further risks if a developer appeals a decision with the Planning Inspector.
At Monday's joint Babergh and Mid Suffolk scrutiny meeting, the latest figures were 5.78 years for Babergh and 5.61 for Mid Suffolk, meaning the authorities both believe they now have an adequate supply.
Independent councillor Clive Arthey, cabinet member for planning, said: "In the period we are in, this is the best we can do.
"Yes we may be in the position of challenge, but I think the simple thing to say is that at this moment in time we have done the very best we can do.
"This is not an ideal situation for us to be in, and one of the main reasons for the difficult situation that we're in is because neither council has an up to date local plan.
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"I would just stress the importance of getting through that process as quickly as we can because we do need an adopted, up to date local plan as soon as possible."
Conservative cabinet member for planning Mid Suffolk, David Burn, added: "The reason why we need a joint local plan is because until that time whatever housing land supply figure we manage to confirm is continually open to challenge."
A joint local plan identifies areas suitable for development in the district, and once adopted can be used to determine whether planning applications which come forward are suitable.
But critics have said it was "too little too late".
Mid Suffolk Green group leader Rachel Eburne said: "For over five years our communities have been at risk of speculative development.
"The Tories also delayed the production of the new local plan by six months and we need this in place as soon as possible to guide development to be the right type and in the right places."
Councillor Andrew Stringer from the Green group added: "Instead of focusing precious resources on out of county speculative investments, we should have been working with communities to avoid this situation."
The consultation on the five year land supply figure ended last week, with responses now being reviewed and any changes needed up for consideration.
Councillor Arthey added that he hoped the position would be confirmed "within a matter of weeks".