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Inspector's decision leads to housing fear
MALVERN may be defenceless to stop a flood of unwanted housing being built wherever developers see fit, councillors have warned.
They fear a planning inspector’s decision to allow more than 40 houses to be built on appeal could signal the start on an “open season”
for more unwanted homes.
Although planners at Malvern Hills District Council refused WM Housing Group permission to build 44 homes at Oldwood Road in Tenbury, government inspector John Papworth has now thrown that decision out on appeal.
He said the emerging South Worcestershire Development Plan (SWDP) – which maps out where 23,000 homes should be built between now and 2030 – can be given only “limited weight” as it still needs to be scrutinised and formally approved by the Government.
As the former local housing plan for the Malvern Hills is now out-of-date, he said new national guidelines that presume in favour of sustainable development should be used.
He also stated categorically that the council cannot demonstrate a five-year land supply – a key requirement for local planning authorities and something that has been the subject of heated debate at recent council meetings. It was hoped the SWDP was advanced enough to allow the council to defend against unwanted development.
Just two months ago council leader David Hughes told your Malvern Gazette that applications were being “determined based on the emerging SWDP” and that the council was not “totally embarrassed” by its five-year land supply.
But other councillors have warned that such optimism has now been blown out of the water, with Green group member John Raine fearing a “significant and worrying precedent” has been set.
“Inspectors all take into account their colleagues’ decisions, so we must surely expect it to reverberate into other appeal decision making, as no doubt the observant developers will note,” he said. “The fear is that we are now into open season for developers, using this decision to try to secure their own permissions on other non-SWDP sites by arguing that, until such time as the SWDP is approved, the National Policy Planning Framework is the key guiding document.”
Council chairman Roger Sutton said members had been summoned to an emergency briefing to discuss the implications of the ruling.
He said the decision has “shifted the goalposts”.
“The protection that we thought we had, it now seems we don’t,” he said. “The SWDP is no protection because it does not exist yet.
In the meantime we are in a very weak position.”
But Coun Tony Penn, portfolio holder for planning and housing, played down the appeal’s implications.
He said it “does not automatically mean that the council is in a weak position when it comes to refusing planning permission.
He said: “Once the SWDP is adopted by all three district councils, it will carry all the weight needed to direct new housing and employment development to what we consider to be appropriate locations.”
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