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Councils front up over housing plan
A SHOCK appeal is expected to be lodged after planning chiefs in Malvern refused a bid to build homes next to a thriving youth centre, angering the community.
The Tory leaders at Worcestershire County Council say they won’t “walk away” after permission to develop land next to Malvern Cube, off Albert Road North, was refused earlier this month.
During furious clashes in a full council meeting at County Hall, the cabinet said it was now taking legal advice with a view to appealing to the national planning inspectorate.
It came despite a 1,168-name petition being handed to the authority from Malvern campaigners who want the green space around the popular centre preserved.
The council says it has already missed out on about £350,000 by not selling the entire plot for development instead of giving a large chunk away.
Now it wants to make up for that by building four luxury properties next to it, despite planners at Malvern Hills District Council saying no.
Councillor John Campion, cabinet member for commissioning and transformation, said: “We fully support community activity, that’s why the cabinet resolved to offer a 30-year lease on the building and a grant of £25,000 for the Cube. But at the time of that deal we were very specific about the need to retain some of the land for development.
“We need to get best value for taxpayers – by giving up the rest of the site, we’ve given up £300,000-£350,000 of capital receipts. We can’t hand over the rest.
“This is an important principle we can’t walk away from.”
He said the council would take “professional advice” before deciding what to do.
A motion was put forward by the Liberal Democrat and Green parties calling upon the council “not to lodge an appeal”, but it was refused after a vote.
Despite the Labour group, independents and UKIP all backing it, and Tory councillor Ian Hopwood abstaining, 28 Conservatives voted to throw it out.
Coun John Raine, (Malvern Trinity) a Green, said it “flies in the face” of what the community wants, adding: “There’s been 40 letters of objection and over 1,000 names on a petition, that’s how people feel about it.”
It now means one Tory-run authority, Malvern Hills District Council, will be slugging it out with the Conservative-led county council for the plot.
Councillor Tom Wells (Powick), Lib Dem group leader, said: “We’ve got the unedifying spectacle of our barristers fighting with Malvern Hills’ barristers.”
The centre is run by Malvern Youth and Community Trust.
Cathy Jackson-Read, of the Malvern Cube Land Campaign, said: “We’re very disappointed the council rejected our call not to appeal, but we’re not going to give up the fight. I don’t know if the council actually will go through with an appeal, but if they do we’ll be ready.”
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