BMSDC Joint Local Plan - Pre-Submission Reg19 (interactive) 2020
02 - Babergh & Mid Suffolk Profile, Context & Key Issues
02.01 Babergh and Mid Suffolk are predominantly rural districts covering the geographical centre of Suffolk, running from the boundary with Essex in the south to the boundary with Norfolk in the north. This covers a total area of approximately 1463 square kilometres.
02.02 Babergh and Mid Suffolk Councils work collectively to deliver shared priorities, as set out in the Joint Corporate Plan (2019 – 2027). The main priority areas are the economy, environment, housing, wellbeing, communities and customers. The Plan provides the mechanism to enable the delivery of the spatial elements of the vision and priorities.
The population of Babergh District is 87,740; Mid Suffolk population is 96,731 (Census, 2011). Across Babergh and Mid Suffolk, more than half the population live in villages and rural areas. In combination, both districts have six main centres; which include Eye, Needham Market and Stowmarket in Mid Suffolk; Pinewood, Hadleigh and Sudbury in Babergh. The historic market towns are surrounded by a rural hinterland comprising 198 rural parishes.02.03
02.04 Babergh and Mid Suffolk are heavily influenced by large centres of population with Ipswich in the east, Bury St Edmunds in the west, Diss and Harleston in the north. This is reinforced by the area's strategic transport connectivity with main road and rail links including the A12/A14/A140 main roads from London to Felixstowe and Cambridge, together with main line rail links from London, to Cambridge and Norwich and a strategic link for freight traffic from Felixstowe to Nuneaton in the Midlands. A large portion of Mid Suffolk has direct access to the A14 and the main line railway between London/Ipswich/Norwich and Cambridge. Babergh has less accessibility with a smaller proportion of its area served directly by the east A12 and north by the A14 and no main line railway stations.
Key Social Issues
- Delivering Housing
Significant numbers of new homes need to be planned for over the Plan period along with employment and community facilities and services in Babergh and Mid Suffolk respectively.
- Achieving an Uplift in Delivery
Rates of annual housing delivery in Babergh and Mid Suffolk have been consistently below target. The number of homes to be delivered per annum has increased with the application of the Standard Methodology, which means that from 2018 onwards the annual rate of housing to be delivered has also increased by around 40% in each council. The revised uplift in housing numbers compounds the challenges of delivery.
- A Growing & Ageing Population
By 2036 the population in Babergh is expected to grow by around 7,300 people in Babergh and by approximately 9,300 people in Mid Suffolk, an increase of 8% and 9.2% respectively. The increasing age of the population is a significant factor contributing to the overall level of population growth.Both Districts have an ageing population with 45 to 59-year olds representing the single largest age group at present. In addition, a significant percentage of the population are aged 65 years or older (26.2% in Babergh and 24.5% in Mid Suffolk). Babergh and Mid Suffolk also have a relatively long-life expectancy at about 81 years for males and about 84 years for females.As the population ages, there will be different demands on housing, infrastructure, services and facilities.
- High Levels of Housing Need and a Poor Affordability
House prices on average are approximately 11 times above the average earnings of residents in Babergh and approximately 9 times above the average earnings in Mid Suffolk and rural parts of the Districts are unaffordable for many.
Key Economic Issues
- Improving Business Growth and Productivity
Babergh and Mid Suffolk have below average productivity levels, skills and attainment levels, and earnings are lower than average levels.
- Economic Base
The economic base is diverse. Projected growth sectors in the area include tourism; creative industries; food production, construction and related services; hospitality/ leisure.
- Further diversification of the economic base and encouraging investment in infrastructure, skills and innovation is a priority.
- Employment levels and projections
Babergh recorded a decline in the total employment rate to 68.3% relating to the population between 16 and 64 years (working age) over the past couple of years. This decline is likely to continue as the working-age population is expected to fall. Mid Suffolk recorded a small increase of the average percentage of the total employment rate to 80.5%. A 9.3% increase in jobs is projected in Babergh and 14.7% in Mid Suffolk increase from 2014 – 2036, which represents a slow down when compared with past trends. The overall growth in jobs is expected to be driven by growth in the Professional and Business Services.
- Town centre occupation
The vacancy rates in town centres in Babergh & Mid Suffolk are below the national average. However, it is acknowledged that there is a need to enhance the town centres.
Key Environmental Issues
- Environmental Assets
The Districts have a rich historic natural environment (including archaeology), with a number of protected areas such as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) sites, Special Protection Areas (SPAs) and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs).
There are a number of priority habitats / species identified as being in an adverse condition. The rural areas of both districts contain biodiversity importance.
Babergh is part of the Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB and Dedham Vale and Stour Valley AONB. Suffolk Coasts and Heaths AONB have extended their boundary which includes significant areas north of the River Stour.
Cross Street Sudbury is identified as an Air Quality Management Area and the 2016 Air Quality Annual Status Report sets out approach to reduce nitrogen dioxide concentration.
Both districts have a high volume of Grade 3 Agricultural Land and limited available previously developed land.
Recycling performance is currently lower than the County average in both districts.
- Heritage Assets
Babergh and Mid Suffolk are rich in heritage assets (including settings). In Babergh there are 29 designated conservation areas, 2,985 listed buildings, 34 scheduled monuments and 5 registered parks and gardens which represent about 20% of the estimated 13,700 designated Heritage Assets in Suffolk. In Mid Suffolk there are 31 designated conservation areas, 3,419 listed buildings, 36 scheduled monuments and 2 registered parks and gardens, which represents more than a quarter of all Heritage Assets in Suffolk. There are also non-designated heritage assets and opportunities to address Heritage at risk.
- Climate Change
There is a national requirement to future proof against climate change including reducing carbon emissions, diversifying energy provision and using sustainable construction and design methods and promote sustainable modes of transport.
For Babergh and Mid Suffolk, there is a particular need to introduce measures that address water scarcity. There is also a need to improve ground water quality, potable water supply and the wastewater infrastructure.