ANY reform to the way parishes are represented on the board of the Malvern Hills Conservators would have to come from a potentially costly Act of Parliament, it has been revealed.

Agents for the Malvern Hills Conservators contacted DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) to establish whether a change could be made using the ‘Statutory Instrument’ procedure, which was used successfully in 1958 to increase the number of directly elected board members when Langland Ward was created.

However DEFRA does not believe it would be possible to use that “antiquated and cumbersome” procedure, and that an Act of Parliament is the only viable option.

When the Conservators last introduced an Act of Parliament, in 1995, it cost about £250,000 to implement, although the figure could be substantially lower if there was no opposition to any proposed reform.

The Conservators’ enquiry was sparked by a request from Malvern Town Council, which has no direct representation on the Conservators’ board.

Cllr Alistair Macmillan believes the current make-up of the board, a mixture of nominated and elected members from various local authorities and the Church of England, is “archaic”, and that Malvern and its residents should be better represented.

“If you are charging a precept then the representation should be proportionate to the number of precept payers an area has,” he said. “It seems to me totally wrong that Mathon has two Conservators representing 200 people, and Malvern has five for 30,000 people.

“The representation was last reformed in 1924, and the whole thing needs to be looked at again. Castlemorton, Newland and Powick do not pay any precept at all, and it is therefore totally wrong that they should be represented at all.”

The precept demand currently provides around 65 per cent of the Conservators income, with Malvern taxpayers providing a high proportion of that.

However Malvern has only five representatives on the 29-strong board. Worcestershire County Council has the same number of representatives, despite a substantially lower financial contribution.

Conservators director Ian Rowat said the onus was with the bodies concerned to come up with a formula for representation that they all agreed on.

That would then have to be voted on by the Conservators board before a new Act of Parliament could be sought.