MALVERN faces a battle to protect itself from “unwelcome”

and potentially damaging housing developments, a concerned councillor has warned.

Although the South Worcestershire Development Plan (SWDP) – a blueprint mapping where 23,000 homes should be built by 2030 – has been approved locally, it is likely to be the end of the year before it gains official government approval.

There are concerns that developers will use that window of uncertainty to seek permission for major developments in areas not earmarked for growth.

Those fears have been compounded by the fact that Malvern Hills DIstrict Council’s “five year land supply”

– a key figure for local authorities looking to justify refusal of planning applications – is, at best, “contested”.

The concerns are borne out by new statistics obtained from the council which show there have been nine “major” applications – for a total of 699 homes – on sites not contained within the SWDP since it was agreed locally in December.

Coun John Raine is concerned this is only “the tip of the iceberg”.

“There is still a lot of time for developers to bring applications forward and one fears that quite a bit of damage could be done during that time,” he said. “A big part of the problem is that we are regarded as not having a sufficient land supply and I do think that is a situation that could have been avoided.

“This has been a long process and I do think it should have been much more prominent in discussions.”

Coun Raine’s fears have been echoed by district council chief executive Chris Bocock.

“I don’t think we have seen anything yet,” he said.

“I think that the number and size of those planning applications is only going to increase.”

One of the applications, by Taylor Wimpey for 55 homes in Eastward Road, Malvern, was turned down during a planning meeting only last week – a decision greeted with cheers and applause by delighted residents. But Coun Raine fears problems could arise if developers chose to take refused applications to appeal.

“That is going to be the real test. Because the land supply is contested you do not know which way an inspector is going to decide, and once one decision is made then a precedent is set. Time will be the test but it is going to cost the council a lot of money to defend appeals.”

Å Leader David Hughes defended the council’s position regarding its land supply – saying the number of planning applications being received over the past few years has dropped because of the state of the economy.

“There is very little we can do in terms of approving applications if they do not exist,” he said.

He added the land supply figure is one “that can be viewed in many different ways”.

“It is inevitable that developers will argue it,” he said.

“At the moment we are not totally embarrassed by our supply and applications are still being determined based on the emerging SWDP.”