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

Part 2 - local issues

Part 2 - 7. Rural communities

7.1. West Suffolk is predominantly rural in character, with 40 per cent of residential properties located in the rural areas. The rural economy in West Suffolk is also diverse. It ranges from agriculture and tourism, to horseracing and civilian employment on United States bases. Broadband roll-out has enabled more home working opportunities and farm diversification offers other opportunities for local economic growth.

Implications of the sustainability appraisal (SA) scoping report information

7.2. The SA scoping report identifies the following key sustainability issues for the rural areas:

  • Much of the plan area is rural in nature, new development and settlement expansion has the potential to impact upon the varied and rich landscape character.
  • It will be important to protect settlement identities, including settlement settings and the nocturnal landscape.
  • Pockets of rural deprivation can be hard to identify and address, with these areas facing additional challenges to overcome barriers to reducing deprivation.
  • Historically there has been an under provision of affordable housing in West Suffolk.

Cavendish village shop (2019)
Cavendish village shop (2019)

Issues for the local plan

Understanding the priorities of our rural communities

7.3. In 2019 West Suffolk Council created a Rural Taskforce to consider priorities in the rural areas. A survey in October 2019 identified the benefits and challenges of living and working in rural areas. Responses showed that people appreciate peace and quiet, a sense of belonging and knowing their neighbours. They also like access to the countryside.

7.4. The settlements in West Suffolk have many different characteristics and residents' aspirations will vary. Rural areas typically have a higher proportion of older residents and home ownership than in towns. Conversely, house prices are high whilst incomes are lower. Some local communities may desire a level of future growth to help them prosper, whilst others consider that their settlement is already big enough regardless of whether there could be opportunities for growth. Sometimes the level of growth considered locally acceptable depends on whether new infrastructure will be provided, or it may be viewed as an opportunity to provide affordable homes and/or retain younger people in the area.

7.5. A number of parishes are preparing neighbourhood plans which when completed become legally binding and will form part of the development plan. The process of producing a neighbourhood plan should bring together residents, businesses, landowners and local groups to work together to build a consensus and plan the future of their local area.

 Clare countryside (2020)
Clare countryside (2020)

Tackling rural deprivation

7.6. National research has shown that some rural areas can fare less well than urban areas in terms of access to services, transport, affordable housing, and job opportunities. Planning policy can help tackle these issues by providing more support for rural employment sites to provide more jobs, ensuring affordable housing is provided - including the provision of rural exception sites, and supporting the provision of local services and facilities.