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Big names in housing speak at conference in Bury St Edmunds

PUBLISHED: 17:24 16 October 2018 | UPDATED: 17:24 16 October 2018

Left to right: John Griffiths, leader of St Edmundsbury Borough Council, Tony Pidgley CBE, chairman of Berkeley Homes Group, Lord Best OBE DL, the House of Lords spokesman on social housing, Anna Rose, head of the Planning Advisory Service, Becky Jago, presenter from ITV Anglia, Sir Edward Lister, chairman of Homes England, Sara Mildmay-White, west Suffolk councils cabinet member for housing, and James Waters, leader of Forest Heath District Council Picture: WEST SUFFOLK COUNCILS

Left to right: John Griffiths, leader of St Edmundsbury Borough Council, Tony Pidgley CBE, chairman of Berkeley Homes Group, Lord Best OBE DL, the House of Lords spokesman on social housing, Anna Rose, head of the Planning Advisory Service, Becky Jago, presenter from ITV Anglia, Sir Edward Lister, chairman of Homes England, Sara Mildmay-White, west Suffolk councils cabinet member for housing, and James Waters, leader of Forest Heath District Council Picture: WEST SUFFOLK COUNCILS

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Some of the biggest names in the housing industry came together for a special conference in Bury St Edmunds to grapple with important issues in the sector.

Among the speakers at the regional housing conference at the Apex today were Tony Pidgley, chairman of Berkeley Homes Group, Lord Best, the House of Lords spokesman on social housing, Anna Rose, head of the Planning Advisory Service, and Sir Edward Lister, chairman of Homes England.

West Suffolk councils hosted the event, with ITV Anglia’s Becky Jago putting questions to a panel representing house builders, contractors, registered providers, adult social care and specialists in modular homes.

Issues such as affordability, quality of housing and the need for homes to be adaptable to suit people’s changing needs particularly as they get older were discussed at the conference.

Mr Pidgley discussed the importance of understanding housing needs when designing new areas, while Sir Edward spoke of the challenges in housing delivery and how they might be addressed.

Sara Mildmay-White, cabinet member for housing, said: “Homes need to be affordable for our communities, they need to be available to enable companies to compete by retaining and attracting new staff.

“The quality of a home can impact on people’s health and education – and with our aging population one of the big challenges is about how homes can be adapted to suit people’s changing health needs which currently has a huge impact on the NHS in terms of costs and availability of beds.

“New homes also help pay towards new infrastructure – roads, schools, surgeries, and community facilities. But the council cannot do it all on its own which is why we brought together house builders, registered providers, senior figures in social care and others involved in housing from across the region for this important and insightful event.

“All of this is about ensuring that West Suffolk not only continues to be a place where people want to live, but also a place where they can.”

The event comes at the same time that west Suffolk councils is shaping its housing strategy, which could see the authority take on a greater role in delivering new homes.

The strategy could also see further emphasis on bringing existing empty homes back into use and, where possible, helping to adapt homes to people’s changing needs.

Currently the council allocates land for new homes and decides on the subsequent planning applications – but permitted homes do not always get built. Under the strategy west Suffolk says it could look at ways to bring these sites forward while achieving income on behalf of the taxpayer.

The authority says it may also seek consent for outline permission for sites and then offer them to developers as a way of reducing the risk for small builders.

West Suffolk will also look to encourage new types of housing including modular homes, according to the authority.

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