HOPES that Malvern Hills politicians will perform a U-turn and save a housing masterplan for south Worcestershire have been dismissed by their leader.
Malvern Hills District Council (MHDC) stunned its partners Worcester City and Wychavon on Tuesday evening by voting to send the South Worcestershire Development Plan (SWDP) back to the drawing board.
Yesterday both Worcester and Wychavon spoke of a faint hope the SWDP could be saved when the three councils go to simultaneous votes on December 10.
Simon Geraghty, Worcester City Council leader, said: “I hope over the last couple of days it has got into people’s minds what position we would be in without a plan.
“We have to be clear this is the second chance, and after that there is no chance. It is this plan or no plan, so although the indications are far from good you don’t know what could happen.”
But MHDC leader David Hughes, fresh out of an all-day meeting of the Joint Advisory Panel (JAP) overseeing the development plan, said that was unrealistic.
“I cannot see that the SWDP will come before the council again as stands,” he said.
“That would contradict the motions passed this week and if it did come in that form it would undoubtedly by rejected.”
Calling the JAP meeting “quite constructive under the circumstances”, he said members had been finalising all the main SWDP policies and “non-contentious” housing allocations.
Everything agreed and endorsed by JAP will be “put on the shelf” for use as and when needed by the councils for their own plans.
Investigation of alternative housing allocations in Malvern Hills will start early next week.
This process means Coun Hughes cannot guarantee Malvern’s plan will be ready for submission before March, when councils without a recognised plan will be at the mercy of the new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).
That concerns West Worcestershire MP Harriett Baldwin, whose constituency takes in both Malvern Hills and Wychavon.
“I think it is an extremely high risk decision that has been taken (by Malvern Hills),” she said. “I champion localism and believe local people should decide where the best sites are for housing.
“But I think it would be irresponsible of our councillors to fail to deliver any plan by March.
“Otherwise there is a very strong chance of developers getting planning permission in places we really don’t want them to. I completely understand why Wychavon feels that it needs to produce its own plan.”
Coun Hughes, meanwhile, insists he remains the man to lead MHDC.
“I think what I have done with the plan up until now has been absolutely right. I am now being instructed by the council to take on board their additional recommendations.
“That is what I shall do and I shall do it with the minimum of collateral damage.”