CONTROVERSIAL plans to build a road across common land in Malvern have created tension ahead of a meeting to decide on the proposal next week.

Malvern Hills Trust is understood to be set to receive at least £2million if members agree to allow developer Rose Farm Partnership to create an access road – known as an easement – on land off Guarlford Road, to serve a proposed new housing estate on 25 acres.

A meeting will be held on Tuesday, March 19, where Trust members will decide whether or not to agree to the easement plan.

A group of residents fighting the proposal say the road would ruin the environment and set a precedent for future development on the common.

A spokesman for the Trust said some residents opposing the road have harangued its board members with "threats and intimidation" ahead of the meeting.

Although the Trust will determine the road proposal, Malvern Hills District Council will decide whether to allow the housing estate to go ahead.

Michael Huskinson, part of the group of residents opposing the road and estate, said: “If this application is granted it will extend the boundaries of Malvern town by a considerable amount.

“Our view is that by doing so, the Trust will compromise their fundamental principles, namely being completely transparent, fully consulting with those affected and being consistent with previous decisions.”

Mr Huskinson’s views were echoed by Katharine Harris, who said: “These plans will open the floodgates to total urbanisation of the area.”

The Gazette understands that the eight Trust board members who are also Malvern Hills District Councillors won't vote on the easement application, because of the conflict of interest.

The Trust needs at least 10 of its 29 board members to vote in order to meet regulations.

Previously called the Malvern Hills Conservators, the trust was first established by Act of Parliament in 1884 to protect and manage the Malvern Hills and the adjacent commons. Its board consists of 11 members elected directly by people in the parishes and wards that pay the precept, 17 nominated by local authorities and one nominated by the Church Commissioners.

A spokesman for the Malvern Hills Trust said: “The purpose of the Board meeting on Tuesday March 19 is to consider an application submitted by the Rose Farm Partnership for easements over land in the ownership of the Trust alongside Chance Lane and in Jackpits Lane.

“As a charity, in considering this application, the board of trustees have a legal obligation to act solely and exclusively in the interests of furthering the objectives of Malvern Hills Trust, and to make the decision in accordance with the Malvern Hills Acts. They cannot take other considerations into account.

"The Trust has a conflict of interest policy formulated in line with Charity Commission guidance and any potential conflicts are considered at the start of every meeting.

“Copies of the application documentation were made available to the public at the same time as they were to board members, and over 100 people living in the vicinity of the proposed easements have written to the Trust to express their concerns. All these letters have been copied to all board members to consider."

The spokesman added: “Feelings of some local residents about this matter are clearly running high and some of our board members have been subjected to threats and intimidation from individuals.

“Such behaviour is entirely unacceptable and will not be tolerated by the Trust at any time.”