ACCESS to an unpopular proposed development site at Poolbrook proved to be a thorny issue when they split a planning committee.

Developer W J Bullock has submitted two different planning applications to build up to 63 dwellings, of which 40 per cent would be affordable housing, on farmland between the existing Brook Farm Estate and the sewage works off Mill Lane.

New access off Guarlford Road, using the Mill Lane entrance, was approved by Malvern Hills District Council's southern area development management committee by nine votes to four, with two abstentions.

However, the application for access off Charlock Road will be referred to the council's planning committee after votes for both approval and refusal were thrown out when councillors could not find an adequate reason to turn it down on planning matters.

Cllr Melanie Baker pointed to residents' concerns over flooding, loss of wildlife and habitat, access and safety for pedestrians but backed the plan and called for "more robust" conditions to address these issues along with more detailed descriptions from the developer.

"We find ourselves without a five year housing plan, so there is no point turning down applications on the basis that the inspector might agree with us this one time."

Cllr Baker added: "It is likely it will happen, so we should maximise the benefits for the wider community."

Nicholas Dean, of the Poolbrook Residents Action Group, said there were a number of reasons to oppose the plan, especially as the council has found the site unsuitable for development twice.

"Nothing has changed - it was unsuitable then and it is unsuitable now."

Mr Dean, who also called for six neighbouring roads at risk of flooding to be named on the planning conditions, added: "The site will flood and this will flood us. Do you want to be responsible for that?"

Speaking about the Guarlford Road access, cllr Clive Smith said: "I think this is the lesser of two evils because of the access."

However, cllr Roger Hall-Jones was concerned about the possible loss of an ancient and beautiful entrance to the town.

"I am getting a little anxious we are trying to urbanise it. I see no reason why this development should lead to further urbanisation of this area of Malvern."