CONTROVERSIAL plans to develop new homes along one of Worcester's most prominent gateways have been postponed - amid suggestions it would "dumb down" the area.

Developers have been asked to look again at plans to revamp part of the old Volvo car dealership in Whittington Road after failing in a bid to get permission on a scaled-down project.

Before the 2008 recession Clover Homes secured approval for 10 new plush properties on the site, but only five were ever built.

The rest of the land remains undeveloped and Leybourne Estates, the new builder, has submitted fresh plans to finish the plot off.

But the developer has stripped out many of the more expensive features which were part of the original blueprint including dormer windows, chimneys, stone arches, Juliette balconies and even car parking spaces.

The city's planning committee has now failed to back it, and asked planning officers to re-start talks with the developer, after an architect turned up to lambast them as "box dwellings devoid of any distinctive characteristics".

The site is located at the original historic Whittington Gate and is seen by thousands of motorists daily.

Jason Whittall, an architect, said: "To allow Whittington Gate to be completed in the way that is now proposed would be an insult to the existing dwellings.

"Such developments are sterile, absent of any local distinctiveness and deserve to be hidden from view, buried deep in the middle of such bland soulless developments elsewhere.

"This whole site was designed as one cohesive development, its construction is half complete and it should be completed in the style in which it was started."

He said the new plans "strip out" all the impressive features and insisted that Worcester "deserves something better", especially on a main arterial route.

Planning officers had recommended it for approval but all the councillors said they were won over by Mr Whittall's argument.

Councillor Paul Denham said: "I found that objection quite persuasive - I'd like our officers to explain why we're not going for the best we can get."

Senior planning officer Alan Coleman said: "Believe it or not I don't entirely disagree with what Mr Whittall has said, I've got some sympathy with it."

Mr Coleman said a deferral would give him "an opportunity" to talk with developers over improving it.

Councillor Roger Knight said: "It dumbs down a very important area within the city - it has real history and I want something better."

It was unanimously deferred.