PLANNERS have admitted flouting planning regulations over allowing a controversial housing development in an area of outstanding natural beauty.

Malvern Hills District Council planning officers admitted the authority acted improperly in allowing the 15 homes to be built at Runnings Park Hotel in Croft Bank, Malvern, in a letter sent to residents earlier this month.

It follows a delegation of four - the planning chairman Councillor John Tretheway, ward members Councillor John Raine and Councillor Anthony Williams and a planning officer - wrongly approving the amended scheme under delegated powers last autumn.

And villagers sent a letter to the local authority last month threatening legal action if they did not review the decision.

Deirdre Drake, of Model Farm, next door to the former hotel, said villagers were angry the amended scheme had not come before the committee again.

She welcomed the council's admission but said villagers vowed to battle on to oppose the development.

The local authority has said the scheme will now come before its next southern area development control committee meeting on Wednesday, March 16.

Ward member Councillor John Raine said the confusion was over the wording of the minutes of the committee meeting.

"We thought we had authority to approve it under delegated powers but the minutes in the committee delegated only the power to refuse," he said.

More than 40 of the town's residents previously contacted the council and attended meetings to oppose the development, saying it should be less than 10 houses.

"We're concerned justice is seen to be done and that the proposed development is rigorously and impartially assessed," said Mrs Drake.

"The density is just wrong - the committee knows the density is wrong and, for whatever reason, this small group has said this is ok."

The Runnings Park buildings were originally constructed as a farm in the early 20th Century and have most recently been used as a hotel and therapy centre, with four separate homes.

Applicants Coxley Developments had initially applied to convert them into 18 homes last February - however planners refused permission at a meeting in August.