Suffolk councils vote in innovative housing company scheme

West Suffolk House ENGANL00120130105142226
West Suffolk House ENGANL00120130105142226

Three Suffolk councils are to make history after voting overwhelmingly in favour of setting up a housing development company together.

At a joint meeting of St Edmundsbury Borough and Forest Heath District Councils on Tuesday councillors voted almost unanimously in favour of establishing the housing company, which would see homes for sale, rent and affordable rent built across West Suffolk.

The collaboration with Suffolk County Council, whose cabinet approved the proposals unanimously on November 10, will be the first of its kind in the country.

Cllr Sarah Mildmay-White, St Edmundsbury portfolio holder for housing, said: “We all know housing need is well documented in West Suffolk.

“The scheme is beneficial to us as councils but most importantly to our residents.”

Cllr David Nettleton, the only councillor to vote against the scheme, said: “I am doubtful that more housing will be provided. All we will do is change the providers and the losers are likely to be the housing companies.

“We have to discuss options to help with the funding cuts, but I don’t think this is the right one.”

Cllr Julia Wakelam said: “I would seek assurance that although the council seeks to act commercially, that objective will not overcome its obligation to the people needing housing at affordable rents.”

In response, Cllr Mildmay-White said: “Each site which comes forward will be subject to an individual business plan, but the aim is to provide 30 per cent affordable housing.”

Cllr Paul Hopfensperger added: “I think it is a fantastic idea. It is wonderful to see the council acting as a business.”

With the scheme now finalised the company will be incorporated in January, with the first business plan due for approval in the spring and work to start in the autumn.

The company’s board of directors will comprise four council officers from the three councils and up to three independent directors with relevant expertise.