Councillor Judy Terry, who will be stepping down from the council next month, criticised the policies of the ruling Labour Party, telling a local newspaper that “There is too much political interference. The planning department has lost a lot of good staff over recent years which would slow things down anyway.”
However Labour Council Leader David Ellesmere retorted that he was “not going to apologise for trying to get as many affordable homes as possible as part of new developments in the town.” He added that when the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats were running the Borough they “gave the go ahead for luxury flats on the Waterfront that nobody could afford and look what happened. Look at the Wine Rack.”
Mrs Terry argued that the council’s insistence on enforcing the target of 35% affordable housing on all large proposals was actively putting developers off from investing in the town. She said “Last year less than 100 new homes were built in the borough. The economy is recovering, but we’re not seeing developments in Ipswich because the council makes so many demands.”
Her argument that 35% of nothing equals nothing is compelling. Of the 96 properties completed in 2012/13, the last financial year, just 7 were affordable homes. Yet in the final year of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat administration, 2010/11, 337 properties were completed, of which 134 were affordable homes.
Mr Ellesmere might argue that the financial downturn brought a halt to properties being developed. Indeed he did argue that, according to a local newspaper, which reported that “Mr Ellesmere said the hiatus of the recession had led to a national slowdown in house building, but it was picking up. It was right that planning policies should be observed.”
He is right. There was a clear drop in the number of completions since 2008/9 – 899 homes were completed in Ipswich that year, of which some 265 were affordable properties. The following year just 389 homes were completed, and just 68 of these were affordable. But it is also clear that the number of affordable homes delivered by Labour in the last three years, since they took control of the council, is fewer in total than in the previous three years. The last three years of the Conservatives & Liberal Democrat led council delivered 467 affordable homes, while Mr Ellesmere’s administration has only delivered 180 since taking over – and only 8 of these are the much vaunted council houses.
All figures accurate as at March 2014, provided by Ipswich Borough Council in response to a Freedom of Information Request.