PROPOSALS to build a new eco-town on an old airfield could spell the end of surrounding market towns and villages in south Worcestershire, a parish council has warned.

Bishampton and Throckmorton Parish Council said it thought the idea to build between 5,000 and 20,000 environmentally friendly' new homes on the disused former RAF base at Throckmorton "wholly inappropriate" for the area.

In a letter to the Minister for Housing Yvette Cooper, parish council chairman Don Cheetham criticised the process by which the site was nominated and added major work would have to be undertaken to provide the infrastructure needed for such a town.

"The plans would alter the local landscape and nature of the community irrevocably," he said. "They would link the ancient and distinct rural settlements of Throckmorton, Bishampton and Tilesford, into one large artificially-created urban/suburban development, on a largely greenfield, open site and have enormous impact on all neighbouring communities.

"Pershore and Evesham are the market towns which have evolved to serve this Vale of Evesham area and this new development as planned would take over as possibly even the largest town of the three, drawing away trade from the other towns, which are struggling themselves to retain their viability and vibrancy."

We previously reported in your Worcester News how Malvern-based QinetiQ, which owns sections of the airfield site, expressed an interest in the project after the Government invited landowners to put forward possible locations for eco-towns in the summer.

Although QinetiQ has denied any details have been drawn up, coun Cheetham said privately nominating the site - which was used to bury 130,000 animals culled to control the outbreak of foot-and-mouth outbreak of 2001 - without any public consultation made a mockery of the planning system.

"While the Government's plan to be more eco-friendly in its development plans is to be applauded, this council is of the opinion that this is not the place to carry out the experiment and this parish and community will most strongly oppose the destruction of its villages," he said.

A decision on whether Throckmorton airfield will be developed into an eco-town will be made early next year. Other locations in the West Midlands, including a site at Long Marston, are also in the running.

It is not the first time the Government has shown interest in the airfield after it was controversially cited as a potential location for an asylum centre in 2002.