Planning in this area is governed by a body of policies and documents including national documents such as the National Planning Policy Framework and National Planning Practice Guidance, the existing South Worcestershire Development Plan (SWDP), Neighbourhood Plans and the various guidance documents associated with the Malvern Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. In determining the outcome of planning applications, it is the policies within the SWDP that are most often quoted by the Planning Officials and by the Civic Society when we make representations.
The SWDP Review Preferred Options
The SWDP is currently being reviewed. This review process started in late 2017 with an issues and options consultations in late 2018. Some of us attended roadshows on this at that time. Quite a lot of concern was expressed because at that time large amounts of land were being offered up as potential development sites.
During 2019 the options have been evaluated to generate a set of preferred options for residential and employment development sites. This has included entire new development areas (e.g. around the new Worcester Parkway station). The areas currently being developed were those identified in the current SWDP and the revision of the SWDP will add additional development areas that are likely to be developed in the coming decades. The current SWDP covers the period to 2030. The revision will extend the plan to 2041.
In Malvern, four areas for residential development have been identified. The largest (approximately 400 homes) is land at Cales Farm. Two other areas are south of Guarldford Raod (approximately 180 homes) and north of Guarldford Road (although described as south of Madresfield Road, also approximately 180 homes). There is also a small parcel of land also at Madresfield Road.
A number of new allocations for employment have been identified. These are mostly outside of the Malvern area (e.g. Blackmore Park) but two allocations are at Mayfield Road amounting to about 20 ha.
While the housing and employment allocations receive most attention from the media, updates to the policy are also important given that these impact planning decisions on a weekly basis. In general, these are mostly reflecting the introduction of Neighbourhood Plans and generally continue to support the protection of heritage assets and conservation assets that we have in Malvern.
Civic Society View
In the Planning sub-committee of the Civic Society, in addition to specific concerns about sites for development, many of our concerns were around infrastructure. The sites identified for development are all on the outskirts of Malvern with access on narrow roads (or roads narrowed by parking). The addition of new housing will require employment, education and medical facilities. Malvern already has a problem with employment and people often are commuting to or from Malvern. It is not clear that schools or medical provision can continue without building new facilities local to where people live. In both cases there has been a move to require both pupils and patients to travel increasing congestion. The transport infrastructure linking Malvern with the rest of the county and country is somewhat fragile. The limited major roads can become easily blocked due to weather events and the railway service is not reliable. While the SWDP review identifies infrastructure improvements (as does the transport infrastructure document), it is unclear whether these will achieve improvements for Malvern.
A letter with our comments was submitted on 15th December. A copy can be downloaded here.
What happens next?
The comments on the SWDP Review go through a process leading to publication of another version in late 2020, which will be submitted to the Planning Inspector during 2021 with adoption late in 2021.