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Inspector suggests extra housing stock
UP to 9,000 more new homes need to be built across South Worcestershire – on top of the 23,000 already planned – says a Government inspector.
The South Worcestershire Development Plan could be in tatters unless all three district councils in Malvern, Worcester and Wychavon agree a housing rise of up to 39 per cent.
At the moment the plan, which has been worked on for at least five years, earmarks land for 23,200 homes and 30,000 jobs by 2030.
But inspector Roger Clews, who has been reviewing the plan, says it will not be enough.
Although his report leaves it to the councils to agree a new tally, it does suggest figures of 25,300 and 32,000, both of which have come from analysis commissioned by developers.
It sits on the fence in terms of which way to go, but warns them away from 34,000 or 36,000 homes, both of which were also suggested by the building industry.
He says the councils are guilty of “fundamental shortcomings”, including not planning for enough suspected inward migration as people come here for jobs.
His conclusions also say the councils are assuming many employment opportunities will go to older people currently living in Worcestershire, which is considered risky.
Mr Clews’ report asks all the councils to do “further analysis in order to derive an objective assessment” and come back to him with a higher figure.
He also says some of the land earmarked for retail in places other than Worcester should be reduced.
At the moment there are 50,000 square metres of retail earmarked by 2030 but trends like internet and outof- town shopping means it may be too much.
Mr Clews’ findings have already been attacked by politicians, with West Worcestershire MP Harriett Baldwin calling it a “terrible day for local democracy”.
It is another blow for the district as the local housing plan for Malvern Hills is now out-of-date.
She said: “All three councils have spent many months and thousands of pounds consulting local people and then putting the plan to a vote by each council.
“It defies logic that this process can be over-turned by an unelected bureaucrat working on numbers provided by housing developers “Any prediction of future housing numbers reflects assumptions and opinion, not facts, and so there can be no right or wrong answer.
“The inspector should confine his examination to factual errors, not mediate on differences of opinion because locally and democratically agreed numbers must prevail in a democracy.”
Sources suggest the cost of the SWDP so far is likely to have topped £500,000, including two rounds of public consultation.
It also promises to re-open old battles about where the extra homes will go, with rural areas particularly vulnerable.
Councillor Judy Pearce, who chairs the South Worcestershire Joint Advisory Panel that leads work on the development plan, said: “We are disappointed our locally derived figures have been questioned by the inspector.
“The inspector clearly feels that the figure should be higher and has asked us to undertake more analysis to enable him to agree a final figure.”
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