Sue Carpendale and Kathy Pollard, Babergh District Councillors
In this report
- Developing information from the 2014 Suffolk Housing Survey
- A new Planning Enforcement Plan
- Change to parking space guidance on new developments
- Work inspiration for schools
Developing information from the 2014 Suffolk Housing Survey
Good quality housing has an important role in improving the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities. Housing is a big national agenda, and Suffolk shares in this. To understand current and future needs the Suffolk Housing Survey was carried out with other local authorities and Public Health. The responses from our residents have provided evidence about people’s expectations and aspirations. The data collected will now be used to develop Babergh’s priorities. These include:
- The building of new council housing
- A review of existing sheltered housing,
- The delivery of strategic development sites in the district (Sudbury, Hadleigh and Ipswich fringe)
- How we deal with empty homes,
- The Health and Wellbeing Strategy, and
- An overall strategy for investment and development.
The information gathered will help to identify the areas of highest need across the district, but this may also require additional Local Needs Surveys. This work is currently carried out by Community Action Suffolk (and usually commissioned by parish councils.) Some of our sheltered schemes are out of date and in low demand. Older people want a choice about the type of housing and where they want to live. Newly formed households – for example young couples and people who are divorced and separated – are increasing. Many are looking to the private rented sector to meet their needs.
A new Planning Enforcement Plan
A new planning enforcement plan is being developed which will cover both Babergh and Mid Suffolk. The aim of the planning enforcement function is to discourage unauthorised development, and where planning breaches occur, to take proportionate action to remedy any harm to amenity or to the built or natural environment. This plan sets out what people should expect from the council and how it will prioritise and undertake investigations. This can be a vexatious issue for people, frustrated on the one hand by what can seem like petty rules, but on the other by an apparent lack of urgency or clout in the face of evident breaches of permissions and conditions.
Compliance with planning law is regarded as a top priority. However – many breaches, though unlawful, do not constitute a criminal offence unless there is non-compliance with an enforcement notice. Officers must use their discretion about whether enforcement action is reasonable and expedient. The key issue is whether there is an adverse impact on public amenity, or on the existing use of land or buildings, or it is contrary to the National Planning Policy Framework or the Development Plan.
Some types of development are “permitted development” and don’t need planning permission. “Express permission” is granted following an application to the council. Planning legislation specifically allows for retrospective applications, which then get treated in the same manner as a prospective one; more often than not, unauthorised developments are regularised that way, especially where it is likely that permission would be granted. A breach of control becomes immune from enforcement if no action has been taken within certain time limits – four years or ten years, depending on the nature of the breach.
Change to parking space guidance on new developments
In the recent past planning policy has restricted the level of parking provision, particularly in new residential developments. The aim was to promote less reliance on cars and a move to more sustainable and healthy methods of travel, particularly for shorter journeys.
This approach has had some success in city centres across England where public transport provision is good, the distance to important community services is short and plenty of local shopping is available. However, in rural communities where mobility is more reliant on access to a car, many residential developments have suffered from limited parking space.
Since 2010 government has placed a new emphasis on local decisions and a move in policy attitude towards adequate parking provision – which means that local councils can now take decisions better suited to local circumstances.
Work inspiration for schools
Currently there is a focus in the media on young people’s skills, together with commentary about how our schools don’t always provide them with an awareness of work. Like everywhere in the public sector, schools are under pressure, tight on resource but driven to deliver their statutory programme. It is understandable then that when it comes to work related learning, with little support behind it, schools can’t always do as much of this as they may want to. In the same way that professionals and managers are not teachers, teachers are not trained accountants, chefs, planners, engineers, community officers, and the rest. So, it’s not always easy for them to talk about other roles and working environments. With that in mind, the Work Inspiration Brokerage has been set up as a great mechanism for linking with young people at school.
Several colleagues from Babergh and Mid Suffolk have joined this initiative, going into both high schools and primary schools to take part in a range of events. This has included CV workshops, Dragon’s Den style panels and project planning and maths in the work place. These are all designed to underpin the employability skills that are so essential to adult life but not necessarily highlighted by the school curriculum.
Babergh has also co-operated with other councils across Suffolk to set up the MyGo centre in Ipswich. The aim is to give advice and support to 16 to 24 year olds. It is the first of its kind in the UK and has been extremely successful so far, even though it has only been open a few months. The service is also available online: http://www.its-mygo.co.uk/