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4,000 new homes for south Worcestershire?
ROOM for another 4,100 new homes is likely to be needed across south Worcestershire - on top of the 23,200 already on the way.
A revised housing blueprint has today been published revealing how the number of properties in the South Worcestershire Development Plan (SWDP) could surge 17 per cent.
The news was described as "frightening" and "unbelievable" by leading community figures today, with battle lines already being drawn over where it should all go.
Under a new figure suggested by councils in Worcester, Malvern and Wychavon, following pressure from the building industry and a Government inspector, the final SWDP could have anywhere between 26,700 and 27,300 new properties.
It follows a decision by inspector Roger Clews, who said back in October the old figure was not enough during his examination.
No locations have been yet agreed on where all the extra homes will go - with Mr Clews set to hold a new two-day public examination on March 13 and 14 to see if the new figure is acceptable.
He could ask for it to increase further, or give it his backing, and a fresh consultation is then expected to kick off earmarking new sites.
Some people have suggested Worcester should take the brunt of it, but councillors in the city say the onus should fall on rural areas to take the hit instead.
Flooding expert Mary Dhonau also says she is worried about the impact it could have on the drainage systems and the wider environment.
Councillor John Smith, who represents Evesham, said: "It's frightening.
"I might be biased for my own area but Evesham has had loads and loads of houses - the south of Evesham has already been shafted.
"I understand the difficulties in Worcester but they've got to have more - Evesham can't take it."
Ms Dhonau said: "I would be very concerned about the impact on the environment, they must think about flooding.
"I go past Crookbarrow Way (in St Peter's, Worcester off the A38 Bath Road) I know that land is earmarked for new homes but there's standing water there now.
"We need an infrastructure that can cope.
"I know the Government says with new developments you must have sustainable urban drainage, but often it gets flooded from the ground water.
"I would urge the councils to make sure the ground water this leads to does not compromise that.
"Then you've got places like Kempsey, where Hatfield Brook has a flooding alleviation scheme in place.
"But if you get a new surcharge there due to new houses Kempsey might get flooded. They've got think about all these issues."
Other community leaders said they would resist more development in their own areas.
Councillor Roger Knight, a member of Worcester City Council, represents St Peter's, where 2,200 new homes are being planned at the boundary with Kempsey.
He said: "Where does this leave local democracy, where three councils draw a plan and an unelected inspector says it's not acceptable? That's the first thing that comes to mind.
"It's unbelievable. We can't take any more in Worcester, the city is going right up to its boundaries. We need a boundary review."
West Worcestershire MP Harriett Baldwin said: "As I have said in parliament, any econometric forecast of future housing need is imperfect because we can't predict tomorrow, let alone 20 years hence.
"What is crucial is that the local plan is adopted as quickly as possible by the inspector, so that local councils and communities are no longer at the mercy of speculative planning applications in unsuitable locations."
Worcester MP Robin Walker said: "It's far better to have a local plan with local control, than have a system where we get 'development on appeal'.
"I know which alternative is the best one out of those two. I'm glad the councils are going for the lower end of the range in terms of what's been suggested by the inspector.
"It's certainly concerning and will be very challenging, but not as bad as what the developers wanted."
Councillor Pam Davey, a Droitwich parish councillor and member of Worcestershire County Council, said: "I would be extremely concerned if this led to more homes in Droitwich.
"We've already granted a large number of permissions. Across Wychavon, in the plan we've made sure to allow for new homes so you don't change the nature of the place."
Councillor Judy Pearce, who chairs a joint advisory panel that leads work on the SWDP, said: “It is important we move forward with the plan and we hope the inspector will now be able to determine a housing number for south Worcestershire.
"He will need to consider carefully that final number in relation to infrastructure and the environment."
The SWDP earmarks land for housing and jobs up to 2030.
At his October hearing, Mr Clews accepted the fact the plan earmarks land for 30,000 new jobs.
In terms of a revised housing figure, he left it up to the councils to come up with a higher figure than 23,200.
Although he sat on the fence, he did mention a ballpark of 26,000 to 32,000, and ruled out pleas from the building industry that south Worcestershire needs 36,000.
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