Rebels urged to step back from the brink

9:10pm Saturday 10th November 2012

BUSINESS and local government leaders from across south Worcestershire are pleading with Malvern councillors not to consign a planning blueprint years in the making to the scrapheap.

On Tuesday, Malvern Hills District Council (MHDC) is holding a crunch meeting to discuss a report produced by a small task group of its members calling for housing allocations in the South Worcestershire Development Plan (SWDP) – a blueprint for development in the Malvern Hills, Wychavon and Worcester areas – to be altered.

But any major changes will cause a delay of several months and – with the SWDP scheduled for approval next month – Malvern Hills is being warned to resist the temptation to tamper.

If the development plan has not been submitted to the Government by March, new national planning rules will take precedence and house-building will be developer-led until councils come up with alternative plans.

Wychavon and Worcester city councils, as well as the Worcestershire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), have now written to Malvern council leader David Hughes saying that any changes at this late stage will be unacceptable.

Paul Middlebrough, Wychavon’s leader, cited a recent planning appeal in Honeybourne, near Evesham, where 190 homes will be built on a site earmarked for 75 with the planning inspector citing the lack of a five-year land supply.

“Until a plan is adopted, unplanned and unwanted development will be free to take place,” he warned.

“This is likely to be in the most desirable parts of your district – the very areas that the SWDP has always sought to protect.”

Anne Bonsor, Worcester City’s regeneration and business engagement manager, warned that the task group’s report threatens to derail the entire SWDP.

“Significant delays in the process leading to the adoption of the plan will inevitably mean that unplanned and potentially less desirable development will come forward in all three districts,” she said.

Peter Pawsey, executive chairman of Worcestershire LEP, said delay would threaten the county’s economic prosperity.

“The LEP considers the emerging SWDP to be sound and deliverable and that failure to progress it as quickly as possible to adoption could put at risk the delivery of jobs and inward investment which Worcestershire desperately needs,” he said.

At Tuesday’s meeting, which is due to be held at 7pm in the Bank House, Bransford, near Worcester, Coun Hughes will urge MHDC members not to make any significant changes to the SWDP saying it is too late and the risks are too great.

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