West Suffolk Local Plan (Regulation 18) Issues and Options October 2020

Part 2 - local issues

Part 2 - 3. Housing

3.1. National guidance sets out specific areas that local plan housing policies should include (National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), paragraphs 61 to 64) such as the size, type and tenure of housing needed by different groups in the community, and the range of different types of affordable housing required to suit local needs.

3.2. At the local level this range of housing issues includes meeting the needs of specific identified groups in the community, addressing affordability, providing homes of the right size, type and tenure and in the right place as well as ensuring there is a sufficient supply of new homes coming forward to meet the housing needs of different groups in the local community.

3.3. All households whose needs are not met by the market, whether they are seeking housing for sale or rent, can be considered to have an affordable housing need. This includes housing that provides a subsidised route to home ownership and/or is for essential local workers.

3.4. A study has been commissioned with Cambridgeshire local authorities to assess the size, type and tenure of houses needed for different groups in the housing sub region (that covers West Suffolk and Cambridgeshire) including affordable need. The study is expected to be published in Autumn 2020 and will inform the preparation of the next stage of the local plan.

Hornings Park, Horringer
Hornings Park, Horringer

Implications of the sustainability appraisal (SA) scoping report information

3.5. The SA scoping report identifies the following key sustainability issues for housing:

  • Past trends indicate that West Suffolk is not delivering affordable housing in line with the identified needs of the population.
  • The population in West Suffolk is continuing to grow.
  • The proportion of residents in West Suffolk aged 60 plus is slightly higher than regional and national levels, which implies an ageing population in the district.
  • There is a need to plan for an appropriate mix of housing types and tenures, and ensure delivery of high-quality, affordable and specialist housing that meets the needs of West Suffolk’s residents.

Issues for the local plan

Providing homes of the right size, type and tenure, in the right place

3.6. A Housing Need Specific Groups Assessment is being carried out with Cambridgeshire authorities to provide evidence to enable us to put policies in place to deliver the sizes of homes and the different types of housing we will need in West Suffolk in the future. A housing need assessment will provide evidence for the different types of tenure and mix of affordable housing we should aim to deliver.

3.7. The council’s housing strategy is ‘committed to increasing the supply, range and quality of housing for our current and future residents’. It recognises the critical role good quality housing has in improving health and wellbeing. The NPPF states that planning policies should promote effective use of land, meeting the need for homes and other uses, while safeguarding and improving the environment and ensuring safe and healthy living conditions. The Council’s housing strategy confirms the council’s recognition of the opportunity to explore new ways of increasing the rate of housing delivery locally. Alongside this the housing delivery study provides evidence to inform the development of strategic and local policies, to ensure the sites of the right size, in the right locations and providing for different types and tenures are identified to enable increases in rates of housing delivery.

3.8. Part one of this document sets out a range of sustainable options to distributing housing growth in the district. These focus the provision of new homes in the most sustainable locations.

(Millers Quarter, Bury St Edmunds)
Millers Quarter, Bury St Edmunds

Meeting the affordable housing needs

3.9. Government policy describes affordable housing as falling within the following categories:

  • Affordable housing for rent
  • Starter homes
  • Discounted market sales housing
  • Other affordable routes to home ownership

3.10. On developments that include ten homes or more, government policy requires at least 10 per cent of the homes to be available for affordable home ownership as part of the overall affordable housing provision on that site, unless local circumstances suggest this isn’t appropriate or exceptions to policy apply.

3.11. Rural exception sites are described in the NPPF as “small sites used for affordable housing in perpetuity where sites would not normally be used for housing”. They provide homes for people who either live or have family or employment connections to the local community. The NPPF permits local planning authorities to include a proportion of market homes on these sites. These sites are usually only large enough to provide a small group of dwellings (no more than five or ten depending on the size of the village) and adjoin the settlement boundary of the village.

3.12. Entry level exception sites are a new form of affordable exception site suitable for first time buyers (or those looking to rent their first home). These sites are on land which is not already allocated for housing and should meet criteria set out in the NPPF.

3.13. Local authorities can set lower thresholds for affordable housing in rural areas than those which generally apply, by designating areas as ‘rural’ in legislation. This enables affordable provision to be brought forward on schemes for less than 10 dwellings.

Meeting the needs of different housing groups

3.14. The housing needs across West Suffolk are not uniform in nature or extent. West Suffolk has a diverse population, different demographic profiles in different parts of the district, and circumstances that help to explain this. The presence of the three airbases (Mildenhall, Lakenheath and Honington), the relative proximity of Haverhill to the Cambridge Biomedical Campus and the unique status of Newmarket as the home of horseracing all have an impact to some degree on the population profile and housing stock of these places and surrounding towns and villages. At the same time the population as a whole is ageing, and we need to plan for different types of homes for older people.

3.15. Recently the government has supported the expansion of self-build and community group self-building, requiring local authorities to maintain a register of people interested in finding a site in their area for building their own homes.

3.16. The needs of all these different groups should be planned for and reflected in our planning policies. These groups are set out in the NPPF and include the following:

  • families with children
  • older people
  • students
  • people with disabilities
  • service families
  • travellers
  • people who rent their homes
  • people wishing to commission or build their own home.

Meeting the needs of Gypsies, Travellers and travelling showpeople

3.17. A study was undertaken in 2016 to provide an assessment of current and future need for Gypsy, Traveller and travelling showpeople accommodation in West Suffolk and Cambridgeshire authorities to 2036. A review of the Gypsy and Traveller assessment has been commissioned which will update the position and assess need to 2040.

3.18. The needs of Gypsies and Travellers and travelling showpeople who meet the definition set out in the Government’s Planning Policy for Travellers Sites 2015 (PPTS) (see glossary) should be addressed through allocation of permanent and transit sites in the district or a wider area when joint provision is planned for.

3.19. Where there is a proven local traveller need for affordable land in rural areas, PPTS advises local authorities where viable and practical, they should consider allocating and releasing sites solely as affordable traveller sites. This would effectively be a rural exception site policy for travellers.

3.20. The PPTS advises local authorities to consider, wherever possible, including traveller sites for mixed residential and business use. Or, where this is not practical, to consider identifying separate sites for residential and for business purposes in close proximity to one another.

3.21. The needs of gypsies, Travellers and travelling showpeople who do not fall within the PPTS definition will be addressed by the housing policies in the plan. Criteria for assessing traveller sites will be consulted upon at the next stage of this plan.