CONTROVERSIAL plans to to build 92 flats on green space in Malvern after pulling down iconic post-war houses have been given the go ahead.

The £11.8 million scheme for Pickersleigh Grove in Malvern by Festival Housing was approved at a planning meeting in the town on Wednesday. The mixed scheme, 55 per cent of which comprises affordable housing, will include 41 open market units, 19 units for shared ownership and 32 rented units. Planning officer Anthony Young said the 12 original buildings (48 units), which date to just after World War Two, had a design life of 25 years and should have been pulled down in 1970. He said there was a surplus of places at Grove Primary School and new homes would help fill them by bringing more people to the area. Grade II listed boundary posts will be maintained and veteran oaks will form part of the scheme. He said all those who lived in the old houses would be rehomed.

Mr Young said: "The benefits of the scheme outweigh the harms." Duncan Smith, head of new business and initiatives at Festival, said the public and the local school has been consulted about the 'affordable housing led regeneration project' and the existing homes were defective under the housing act. He said heating bills in the new unit would be less than £1,000 a year compared to more than £1,900 in the existing, energy inefficient homes. Festival would have to invest £1.5 million to improve the fuel efficiency of the existing homes and a further £500,000 if they developed structural problems.

But objectors have expressed concern about the loss of green space and a potential 'domino effect' in which other land could be lost.

In an impassioned plea Bob Tilley, chairman of Malvern Civic Society, said the houses should be insulated and saved. He said: "Please do not build on this field. Its important value as green infrastructure within Malvern – inside built up Malvern – is clearly stated, proven and accepted. The SWDP says no development of open green urban space should be permitted. No development of open green urban space – full stop. No development - period.

"The Civic Society and many, many residents are not just concerned with the houses on this field. They are concerned with the message this will give to the owners of the several neighbouring fields (that they can be built upon).

"How can you approve this application? Approval here will set a clear precedent. 'Houses are welcome. Come and build'."

Cllr John Raine said he had mixed feelings about the development and expressed concern about the loss of a "precious green lung". He said he hoped the shell of one of the homes could be preserved in a museum as a "historic piece of architecture" if permission was granted.

Cllr Roger Hall-Jones, who refused to support the application, said there was now precious little of this ancient meadowland left which 200 years ago stretched to the walls of Malvern Priory. He said: "If you're going to have nice views of the Hills it means the development can be seen from the Hills. We want to avoid that."

Cllr Melanie Baker said the existing houses were "cold, damp and cramped" and she would not want to live there. She said she understood concern about the meadowland but most of the time this particular field was soggy.