LANDOWNERS are appealing for permission to build a massive housing estate on countryside near Astley Cross but a planning chief believes the bid is unlikely to succeed.

A Government inspector will consider objections to the land not being allocated for residential development when the Malvern Hills District Local Plan Inquiry gets under way in May.

The landowners' bid has sparked a major row between battling Conservative and Labour councillors in Wyre Forest, after a Tory newsletter incorrectly stated it was the Liberal Democrat-controlled Malvern Hills District Council which was proposing to release the 200 hectares to build 3,000 houses.

The council's senior planning officer in the local plans team, Simon Jones, said Malvern Hills had identified sufficient brown field and infill sites within the district to meet its housing requirement without having to use open countryside.

He added Stourport's housing needs were also accounted for in the Wyre Forest District Local Plan and there was no need for neighbouring authorities to help.

Mr Jones said the council would argue "robustly" against a change of allocation for the land between Astley Cross and Redstone Lane, Areley Kings.

"The inspector will decide whether to agree with the council or to make a change to the plan but I think that would be unlikely, given that it would be such a fundamental change to the strategy of using brown field sites rather than open countryside," Mr Jones explained.

"It would also fly in the face of national and regional guidance."

In the unlikely event that the inspector did agree that the land should be re-designated for residential use, planning permission would still have to be sought.

The local plan inquiry will run from May 24 until the end of July and will provide a blueprint for future development.

Wyre Forest District Council Labour leader, councillor Jamie Shaw, accused the Tories of "unjustifiable scaremongering" in the Stourport Matters newsletter, which incorrectly stated it was the council, rather than the landowners, that wanted to release the land for housing.

Mark Garnier, Conservative prospective parliamentary candidate for Wyre Forest, admitted: "We have to get our facts right. We are guilty as charged. In future leaflets we will make sure the facts are right."

Wyre Forest District Council leader, Councillor Stephen Clee, said the correct facts would be published in the next newsletter but denied it had been scaremongering.

"The substance of what it was trying to get over was that there is a big area of land that could potentially be used for housing," said Mr Clee, adding: "We wanted to give a wake-up call to the public that this proposal existed and we have to fight it."