Plans U-turn leaves council fuming

By Tim Clarke Friday 16 November 2012 Updated: 25/11 14:36

A BLUEPRINT for the future of housing development in south Worcestershire has been left in tatters after neighbouring councillors scuppered the plans at the eleventh hour.

Malvern Hills District Council's decision to stall the South Worcestershire Development Plan (SWDP) while they explore a series of alternative proposals has infuriated its partners at Wychavon District and Worcester City Councils.

Wychavon leader Coun Paul Middlebrough branded the decision "reckless" while revealing his council would now be going it alone and drawing up its own local plan.

Worcester City is expected to follow suit but with no joint plan agreed there are fears south Worcestershire will be left at the mercy of developers when the Government's new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) comes into force in March.

Malvern's U-turn comes less than a month before the SWDP was due to be formally adopted by the three councils and at the end of a five year process which has seen hundreds of thousands of pounds ploughed into drawing up a masterplan.

Coun Middlebrough said: "The decision Malvern Hills have made means they are walking away from the plan and joint working.

"This is nothing short of reckless and fails to be in the best interests of their residents and wider communities.

"We remain in a strong position to move forward our own plan. This will mean no change for our communities in Wychavon and we remain committed to delivering a plan so that we have clear direction and do not fall foul of the appeals process or unwanted development."

Coun Middlebrough said the council would do all it could to help its colleagues in Worcester City and would try and remain on track with the current timetable to submit its new plan to the Secretary of State in early 2013.

The fate of the SWDP unfolded at a five-hour extraordinary meeting of Malvern Hills District Council on Tuesday (November 13).

Malvern District Council leader, David Hughes, had urged members to back his recommendation to press ahead with the SWDP or risk facing a "far worse scenario" if they delayed the process further.

But councillors rejected his call and opted instead to vote in favour of exploring a series of significant changes to the SWDP which were tabled by a council policy group.

The council's leadership had warned pursuing the alternatives could create a delay of up to ten months, effectively de-railing the SWDP's timetable.

But Coun John Raine - who headed up the eight-strong group which produced the alternative proposals - accused the council's leadership of running a calculated campaign of scare-mongering.

He said the group had been treated "rather shabbily" but its proposals were the first time councillors had been given a real choice over housing sites.

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