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Ipswich outlines housing policy

With the UK's population rising, the need to build new homes has been paramount, with central government targets for the country at large ultimately filtering down into local plans based on the needs of particular areas.

These vary from places with rapid population growth, such as east London, Manchester and, to a lesser extent, other big cities, through to a handful of mainly post-industrial areas with a declining population. Ironically, Manchester's neighbour Stockport was among them at the last census.

Ipswich is neither a big city nor a post-industrial town. Instead it is, like so many places, a large town that dominates an otherwise largely rural county, in much the same way Norwich is in neighbouring Norfolk, or Swindon in Wiltshire. 

Nonetheless, the town is expected to see population growth over the next few years and that means the council has had to plan to build new homes. All that will be of interest to the local construction sector, including insulation fitters and plumbers. 

However, the Ipswich Housing Strategy 2017-2022 report has found fault with the original projected need for new homes between 2011 and 2031. That figure had been listed as 7,799, but the latest report said this figure was too low, based as it was on the extrapolation of "unusually low" migration levels that took place during the recession. Since then, the number moving into Ipswich has risen and the new projection is that an additional 9,977 properties will be needed. The need will also be inflated by longer life expectancy and increases in the birth rate. 

This will be a substantial figure for a town where the current population is 135,600 living in 60,810 homes. To find space to build the equivalent of a sixth of the current town will not be easy, so the council is planning to set up a local authority trading company to draw in funding for new housing, speed up progress on stalled construction sites and carry out an updated assessment on the availability of building land. 

Of the nearly 10,000 new homes, around 1,000 are expected to be built in the next decade. Because the target has a start point of 2011 that does, of course, mean homes built in the last six years count towards the total. 

However, it is not just the new homes that the local authority is focusing on. Council housing is also on the agenda, with plans in place to carry out a major programme of improvements. This will include plenty of insulation work as the properties are revamped to increase energy efficiency.

Discussing this issue, Ipswich Borough Council’s housing portfolio-holder Neil MacDonald said: "Providing decent homes for our tenants to live in is one of our top priorities.

"It all costs a lot of money but we are committed to the higher Ipswich Standard and to making our housing stock the safest, most energy-efficient and comfortable homes for people to enjoy.

"By doing this we are investing in the future of Ipswich."

Ipswich is not the only council to reveal details of its housing strategy this week. Cardiff produced its latest monitoring report concerning its Local Development Plan, which projects a need for 11,000 new homes to be built between now and 2022. 

As well as over 2,000 private homes being constructed each year, around 1,000 council houses are planned during the same period.