Worcester deputy council leader says politicans should try to co-operate

Evesham Journal: ‘VERY WARY’: Worcester City Council’s deputy leader councillor Geoff Williams. ‘VERY WARY’: Worcester City Council’s deputy leader councillor Geoff Williams.

THE deputy leader of Worcester City Council has hit out at the criticism towards the planning inspector deciding the future of the blueprint for tens of thousands of homes across south Worcestershire.

Councillor Geoff Williams, who is in charge of economic prosperity, says the county should be working with Roger Clews, rather than against him and says politicians need to be “very wary” of upsetting him.

As your Worcester News revealed in October, Mr Clews has ordered that a housing blueprint for south Worcestershire needs to be revised. He says the South Worcestershire Development Plan (SWDP), which earmarks land for 23,200 new properties by 2030, needs to make provision for more.

Three district councils in Worcester, Malvern and Wychavon have been told to come back with a higher figure, possibly as much as 9,000.

In recent weeks West Worcestershire MP Harriett Bald-win and the leader of Wychavon District Council, Councillor Paul Middlebrough, have both been critical of his stance.

Coun Williams, a Labour politician, said: “There is work to do over the SWDP and this is being undertaken urgently.

“We should be very wary of questioning the role and capabilities of Mr Clews, and my advice to any councillor is that the best way to defend this plan is to vote for it when it comes back to full council again.”

His comments, made during a full council meeting, followed a question from Conservative Councillor Mike Whitehouse, who said Mr Clews was seeking a “massive increase” in the number of homes.

Coun Whitehouse called upon the deputy leader to “defend the original submission” of 23,200 properties and suggested the “opinion of one inspector” should not undermine the plan.

In Mr Clews’ findings during a public examination, he said the councils are guilty of “fundamental shortcomings” in not planning for more homes.

Although he sits on the fence in terms of which way to go, figures of 25,300 to 32,000 are both mentioned in his report.

The councils are now working on a revised figure, and when finalised it will trigger a fresh inspection by Mr Clews.

The SWDP also earmarks land across all three districts for 25,000 new jobs.

It has cost at least £500,000 to put together so far, but cannot be adopted unless the councils agree a new homes figure that is also acceptable to Mr Clews.

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