CONTROVERSIAL plans have been unveiled to build on part of Malvern’s ‘green lung’.
Developer Barwood released proposals yesterday for up to 150 houses on fields off Hayslan Road, which is heavily used by dog walkers, joggers, children and nature lovers.
Malvern Civic Society has lambasted the plans and expects strong local opposition.
Bob Tilley, chairman of the civic society’s planning committee, said: “This land has been used by members of the public for decades and there will be a lot of resentment at the prospect of having it developed.”
The 15.5-acre site is owned by girls’ school Malvern St James, and was used as playing fields several decades ago.
Often referred to as part of Malvern’s ‘green lung,’ the land is designated as urban green space in the emerging South Worcestershire Development Plan.
But Mr Tilley fears Malvern Hills District Council (MHDC) planners will be unable to refuse Barwood’s plan because of a decision taken earlier this year. In January, the council approved plans to build houses on land including a field next to the current site, also part of the urban green space.
Mr Tilley said: “At that meeting, I told the councillors that approving the plan would lead to further applications for the green space, and now here we are.
“Our worry is that if MHDC turns this down, the developer will appeal, point to that decision in January and get a decision in his favour.
“I told them so in January and the councillors who voted in favour of that application should hang their heads in shame,” Mr Tilley added.
Barwood’s plan was put on show at the Council House, Avenue Road, yesterday afternoon and evening.
The company did not want to comment yesterday.
Controversy over the land’s future stretches back for decades.
In 2003, following a 10-year dispute, an attempt by a local residents’ group to have the land declared a village green was defeated, following a public inquiry.
The school says it will use proceeds from the site to fund bursaries for poorer pupils.
In a statement released yesterday, it said: “Malvern St James has formalised its commitment to increasing accessibility to girls who would be unable to attend the school without financial assistance.
“The bursary programme has just been launched, and the school intends to extend its provision over the forthcoming years. Proceeds from the sale of Hayslan Fields will add to this fund.”
The developer says the scheme will provide a wide variety of house types and sizes, and is close to local services such as a primary school, health centre, bus stops and leisure facilities.
It says the land is in a “sustainable location”
within the town’s settlement boundary.
And it is outside the Malvern Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
It says: “The public rights of way crossing the site are well used, predominantly by dog walkers and those crossing the site to access shops, the primary school, health centre and local services.
“There is a good opportunity for those rights of way to be properly surfaced and upgraded, to provide moreconvenient, safe and accessible routes.
“Other than the public rights of way, this site is private land.
“The proposals will create areas of public open space, including a green loop around the perimeter and a new children’s play area.
“That space is being designed to create an attractive option for those walking their dogs, runners and for other recreational and leisure activities.”
The company also says it will improve the scrubland on the north of the site with a management plan, making it publicly accessible and enhancing its biodiversity.
Existing mature trees and hedgerows will be retained, and new trees, hedgerows and landscaping will be provided, plus an “sustainable urban drainage system”.
“Whilst the character of the site will change, the footpath link, the enhancement to the area in the north of the site and retention and additional planting of trees and hedgerows along the western and southern boundaries will create an attractive environment.”
Barwood says the plan also strongly promotes sustainable transport measures, seeking “to minimise vehicle trips from the outset of the scheme, with residents being encouraged to walk, cycle and use public transport”.
The 2003 attempt to have the land declared a village green was not the first.
In June 1995, the Pickersleigh Residents Group applied without success.
And a few years later, in 1999, an attempt by Malvern Hills District Council to buy the land came to nothing when the council could not find the cash.
In 2005, Persimmon Homes – the developer of North Site – was showing an interest in the field, and lobbied unsuccessfully to have the land designated for development in the local plan being formulated that year. Barwood’s plans can be viewed at gva.co.uk/hayslanroad.
- Click here to download the Barwood consultation document