THE sale of a so-called "ransom strip" at a Malvern housing site has been defended by councillors.

We reported last week how High Street Malvern had hit out at Malvern Hills District Council over plans to discuss the sale of a strip of land behind the Foley Arms in secret.

At the time, the group accused the council of holding "secret talks" claiming a new town square should be built behind the hotel rather than new housing.

Cllr Beverley Nielsen said it was entirely normal for discussions to take place in this way and said the correct planning procedure was followed.

She said: "It is not uncommon for negotiations relating to ransom strips to take some time, not least because the council would be prejudicing its negotiating position by agreeing an amount prior to being fully aware of the exact details of the development intended for the site.

"Until a final price is agreed these discussions remain confidential, as is usually the case.

"HSM is fully aware that the planning process has been correctly followed and should accept that their plan for a town square can no longer be considered.

"Planning committees are open to public representation but HSM did not, as far as I recall, present their views during the public elements of this process.

"I cannot see where there are further grounds for complaint."

Approved in June last year, the plans will see 17 new homes and three new shops built in a disused car park behind the hotel.

High Street Malvern and Malvern Civic Society produced plans in 2019 which would use Edith Walk as a centrepiece for a new town square which were overlooked by the council.

Civic Society committee member Roger Sutton said the council has continuously ignored the group’s plans to build a new square centred on Edith Walk called ‘Elgar Square’ and questioned why the council needed to hold discussions on the price of the ransom strip away from the public.

Cllr Cynthia Palmer defended the council further, saying the site was an "eyesore".

She added: "This area of land has been an eyesore in the centre of Malvern for many years and Elevate’s proposals to built 17 houses and 3 new shops fronting Edith Walk will regenerate this area and provide much needed town centre accommodation.”