COUNCIL candidates have responded to concerns raised by a Malvern resident who was worried about conflicts of interest in relation to planning.

In a letter to the Malvern Gazette, Malvern resident Caroline Carver said there are Conservative Party candidates standing in the local elections in Malvern whose supposed commercial interests in the land will cause a conflict of interest if they are elected.

Those named in the letter are Chris and James O’Donnell, who represent the Wells and Chase wards respectively, and Neil and Caroline Baldwin, all are standing as candidates for May’s local elections.

Mr Baldwin is a current Upton-Upon-Severn town councillor, and said there is no conflict of interest as he has no commercial or planning interests in his prospective ward.

In a statement on behalf of himself and his wife Caroline, he said: “It is no secret we are hoping to expand our tourism business for the benefit of the local economy, but being able to properly represent those that we may be fortunate to serve is one of the reasons why we are hoping to represent Morton (Neil) and Chase (Caroline) wards, to which we have no commercial or planning interests whatsoever, and therefore no potential conflict of interest.”

Both the O’Donnells, who were part of a company which offered land for development, said they had no financial interest in the land anymore and would not have a conflict of interest.

Chris O’Donnell said: “I was a director of company that owned the land in question when the applications for inclusion in the SWDP were invited.

"However, that company has since been dissolved and I now have no direct pecuniary interest in what happens to that land.

"Furthermore no decisions have been made or announced about the the outcome of any such applications."

Cllr James O'Donnell said: "I am not a councillor in the ward where the land is.

"The land was owned by a company of which, for a short period, I was a none shareholding director, it’s a small piece of land next to my parents house.

"The company has been dissolved and I was not involved in the disposition of the land.

"As far as I know the company did not own the land at the time I was a director and it was disposed of some time ago and I never had any financial dealings with the company.

"As far as I know, every single councillor or candidate owns land in the area, it is one of the core requirements to stand as you can only stand if you work in the area.

"Other than my home I have no financial interests in any land in the MHDC area.

"Every single councillor is affected by development in the area, so if conflict of interest were an issue, every one would be disqualified."

What the councillors are doing is allowed in the rules and is not illegal, but Mrs Carver feels it could undermine the democratic process if they are unable to vote due to conflicts of interest.

She said: “I think it is wrong to have this conflict of interest.

“One reason being that it means that they are barred from voting on the SWDP review, which means their constituents have no-one to represent their views.

“The SWDP is something that is having and will have a major impact on the lives of people in this ward and across Malvern Hills for many years to come.

"It is vital that residents have proper representation in its ongoing formation.

"It is important to emphasise that any Councillor who has submitted land for inclusion into the SWDP is barred from Council discussions in and voting on the SWDP, so is unable to represent their constituents views and wishes, regardless of whether their land is in their ward or not."

A District Council spokesman said: “All new elected councillors will be required to sign a declaration of interest form, which will be available for public inspection on our website.”