A VITAL planning blueprint outlining the shape of development across the Malvern Hills district has finally been approved after 10 years of controversy and uncertainty.
The South Worcestershire Development Plan (SWDP) has formally been given the go-ahead by an independent inspector.
It will see some 5,900 homes built in the Malvern Hills area over the next ten years.
Malvern Hills originally rejected the SWDP in November 2012 and then reversed its decision a month later. However, further delays were introduced after planning inspector Roger Clews ordered the number of houses across Malvern Hills, Wychavon and Worcester City to be increased from 23,200 to 28,370.
The plan is now set to be formally adopted by Malvern Hills District Council at its meeting on Tuesday, February 23, with Wychavon and Worcester City also set to adopt it.
Cllr Melanie Baker, of the ruling Tory group on Malvern Hills, said: “It’s fantastic news that the inspector has given the plan a clean bill of health. I am hoping all three councils can now move rapidly to adopting the plan, which will be a vital tool in delivering the economic growth we need and providing the housing our current and future residents want.”
But Julian Roskams of the opposing Democratic Group described it as “no cause for celebration”.
He said: “In its determination to pursue house-building at all costs, national government effectively neutered local councils by starving them of the resources needed to allow them to lead the plan-making process, taking proper account of local need and residents’ wishes.
“Instead, large developers, driven by the desire to minimise costs and maximise shareholder profit, were effectively put in charge of the plan. Exploiting years of planning chaos and the pedestrian deliberations of government-appointed inspectors, developers have had a field day in submitting speculative applications that residents have been powerless to resist.”
The civic society says the adoption would remove the district council’s problem of being unable to prove a five-year land supply, which has allowed developers to gain planning permission on sites that planners and residents have deemed unsuitable.
Society chairman Clive Hooper said: “It is to be hoped that this good news about the SWDP will be in time to prevent any development of Hayslan Fields, where the outcome of an appeal hearing lodged by a prospective developer is awaited.”
Bob Tilley of the society said: “This has been a political own goal. A local development plan for South Worcestershire was close to being finalised back in 2010 when a change in national government led politicians to abandon what had been produced and start the whole process again.
“This time they used a ‘bottom-up’ rather than the ‘top-down’ process of the abandoned Regional Spatial Strategy. Starting the process again has caused a long delay. Many housing developments have been approved in the interim in unsatisfactory locations on account of the five-year land supply issue. In addition, the SWDP’s future housing targets are very similar to those of the abandoned RSS.”
MP Harriett Baldwin said: “It is immensely frustrating that the consultation process for the ambitious SWDP has been so long but I welcome the news that it will be put before local district councillors this month for their approval. This will mean that we will finally have a blueprint for new development which create a platform for economic growth for the county.”