MALVERN residents are to be given their biggest say ever when it comes to shaping how the town should be developed in decades to come.

A project to produce a new neighbourhood plan, detailing what sort of development people want and where, has been launched by Malvern Town Council in response to the Government’s new Localism Act.

Julian Roskams, chairman of the town council’s strategic planning committee, believes the plan – a first for Malvern – will be a “unique opportunity”

for residents to shape the areas where they live. “This is an opportunity that has simply not been there in the past, when matters like this have been by and large decided by planners at local councils and local people have not had much of a say,” he said.

“This is a chance to exert a real influence and shape the communities where we live.”

The plan is for the council to create a “template” which members will then take out into their own wards and establish what people there want.

These individual plans would then be combined into one master document for the whole of Malvern, which would be submitted to Malvern Hills District Council – the local planning authority – for approval.

If passed, then a referendum would follow to determine if the neighbourhood plan should be adopted and incorporated into the wider South Worcestershire Development Plan.

Although a neighbourhood plan cannot directly conflict with or prevent the aims of this broader planning framework, Coun Roskams said it could exert real influence on issues of residential and business development, transport, the protection of open space and important buildings and the development of community facilities such as schools, health centres and places of worship.

“Obviously we could not have a plan that says we don’t want any development whatsoever, but there is huge scope to shape our areas for the next 20 or 30 years,” he said.

A working party is being appointed to produce the template, which is it hoped will be ready to go out in six months.