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Blueprint for housing future in chaos
THE masterplan to build thousands of new Worcestershire homes could be binned if a council backs a new housing report.
But a task group set up by Malvern Hills District Council has published a review, floating major changes to the plan, just weeks before key council votes.
The South Worcestershire Development Plan (SWDP) is the blueprint for where to put 23,000 homes across Worcester, Wychavon and the Malvern Hills, from now until 2030. But if the review changes are seriously considered, they could spell the end of the SWDP.
Without a development plan, new national planning rules arriving in March will take precedence, and house-building will be developer-led until the councils come up with alternative plans.
As it stands, Worcester City Council, Malvern Hills District Council and Wychavon District Council are set to jointly agree the current version of the SWDP at simultaneous council meetings late in November, or early December.
But if the Malvern review wins backing over the current blueprint from its councillors at a vote at an extraordinary meeting on Tuesday, November 13, it risks a showdown between the councils.
The review proposes big changes such as where a 2,450-home estate currently planned at Broomhall, in Malvern district, off the A4440 opposite the St Peter’s estate, should be built. It suggests instead splitting off 500 homes to Redhill, Worcester, adding that 800 could be accommodated in Wychavon’s backyard at Norton and Littleworth.
Seven hundred homes for Newland, in Malvern, would be reduced to 250, with the remainder allocated elsewhere.
The six-member Malvern task group was only set up after splits between Malvern councillors wanting the SWDP to continue as is and others who wanted contentious areas such as Newland reviewed.
The resulting report was sent to every Malvern councillor, and both Wychavon and Worcester’s planning chiefs.
For his part, Malvern council leader councillor David Hughes supports the SWDP as is, saying “long-term” it is “the best overall solution for Malvern.” If backed on November 13, the review is likely to be referred to the three councils’ joint administration panel. The panel could choose not to act on the proposals, but having by that stage backed the review, a majority of Malvern councillors could then force another vote and pull out of the SWDP.
Both Worcester and Wychavon’s elected planning chiefs await the outcome of the November 13 meeting, but confirmed the review report details.
City councillor Marc Bayliss said: “Without a plan it will be developers calling the shots”, and that the “dissipation” of the Broomhall site could threaten access to the millions of pounds of cash needed to dual the southern link road.
He said the current SWDP had already been “through a robust process” with “no evidence to suggest anything is amiss” with the current draft.
He said “at this point I don’t see the [report’s] evidence as compelling to change the strategy”.
Councillor Judy Pearce, of Wychavon, said the SWDP was about “co-operation” which each council reliant on the other to vote through the SWDP at each stage.
Having read the report, she said the review “hasn’t supplied any evidence” to back moving housing allocations. She said the Redhill city site had previously been ruled out as unsuitable, earlier in the SWDP process.