Housing issues and Stowmarket regeneration among targets in council’s new action plan

Mid Suffolk District Council’s leader has outlined plans to address housing issues in the district, regenerate Stowmarket and further combat climate change.

Speaking at the Annual Council Meeting on Wednesday (22nd May), Cllr Andy Mellen said a new action plan included a raft of initiatives. He added: “We are focused not just on the problems of today. We want to make a positive impact long into the future.”

It further builds on The Mid Suffolk Plan, which was adopted by the council in January and sets out a vision for the future of the district until 2027.

Cllr Mellen said:

“Our priority will always be to deliver council services to a high standard and, if we don’t get things right, to challenge ourselves to improve.

But we’re ambitious, and there are so many exciting things happening in our district.

In the last year, for example, we’ve helped drive progress on Gateway 14, which is becoming an emerging centre for green and hi-tech industries - creating skilled jobs - while £18million has just been agreed for our Skills and Innovation Centre at the site. 

Excellent new sporting facilities for Stowmarket have now been approved, we have invested in community transport for people in rural areas, helped dozens of communities enhance their local environment, and started to roll out a £2million initiative to make homes more energy efficient.

But there is much more we are doing to back communities, create opportunities, and achieve our vision for the district – which is underpinned by the principles of environmental sustainability and social justice.”

Cllr Mellen told the meeting that it remained an urgent priority to provide better council housing for tenants.

He said:

“We’ve made improvements, invested £672,000 to clear a repairs backlog and introduced new systems – but we must do even more for tenants. At the same time, we will continue to lobby Government over the broken funding system for social housing. This is a crisis faced many local councils, and is a particular threat to our improvement plans,” 

He outlined how Mid Suffolk will work with partners to help regenerate Stowmarket – with significant initiatives for the High Street and cultural investment in the pipeline.

“A healthy and vibrant Stowmarket is important for the whole district, so we are working with partners in the town to stimulate regeneration and improvement. No single organisation can do everything, but together we can make a significant economic, cultural and social impact.

Our partnership with Stowmarket Town Council has already resulted in a project to introduce a Town Ranger service.  The initiative came from the town council, but we have been able to support it with funding – and we hope this will be a template for other initiatives.”

He said the council’s vision was to work with all towns and villages, helping them to deliver local projects and have their input into council decision-making.

Meanwhile, the council wants to encourage more community-led housing and stimulate the formation of Community Land Trusts – resulting in community ownership of land for affordable housing. 

More action to combat climate change was also outlined, including a desire to explore how communities can create local renewable energy plans.

Cllr Mellen added:

“It is no surprise we want to make it easier for everyone to understand how they can combat climate change and improve biodiversity. We, as a council, will continue to cut carbon emissions, but we want to support the whole district to do the same.”

Work to remove red tape around making listed buildings more energy efficient will continue.

More parishes will be supported to complete Neighbourhood Plans or People and Place Plans to help shape future development, with a renewed emphasis on good building design.

And additional plans to support people through the cost-of-living crisis are also set to be brought before the council.

Cllr Mellen announced at the meeting that Cllr Rowland Warboys would become lead member for Housing Solutions, and Cllr Colin Lay lead member for Stowmarket.

Cllr Andy Mellen