Residents unite to fight homes on green space
Battenhall residents alarmed at seeing local green space back on the agenda for potential development have banded together to fight the prospect.
The inaugural meeting of the Friends of Battenhall was dominated by an issue residents of the ward thought had been headed off two years ago when developers withdrew an application for planning permission to build houses on land at Middle Battenhall farm.
A larger area of that land has now been submitted for possible development under the South Worcestershire Development Plan (SWDP), a joint effort by Worcester City and Wychavon and Malvern Hills District councils to find land for housing and employment growth in the area up until 2041.
It includes the building of an additional 14,000 new homes to meet demand as well as 169 hectares of employment land to help companies grow and create new jobs.
The current SWDP was approved by the three councils in 2016 and set out proposals to deliver 28,400 new homes and 300 hectares of employment land by 2030.
The Government now requires all councils to review their local housing plans every five years to ensure they are keeping up with the latest housing requirements. Failure to do so could mean councils losing control over where development takes place.
A six-week Issues and Options public consultation on the SWDP ends on Monday, December 17.
A roadshow at Worcester’s Crowngate shopping centre about the SWDP was visited by around 150 people.
The land under consideration in Worcester for development also includes an area currently used for recreational purposes at Evendine Close in Battenhall.
The inaugural meeting of the Friends of Battenhall at Worcester Guildhall was attended by about 50 people.
Jason Whittall, who chaired the meeting, said the Friends group had been formed as Battenhall did not have a parish council like the one in neighbouring St Peter’s, adding: “It’s about giving a voice to the community.”
He said: “The group was formed before the consultation. We were aware the SWDP was being reviewed – we were aware it was coming.”
He went on: “When these places come under threat as part of the SWDP it’s important we pull together.”
He warned: “I see the sites that are earmarked at the moment and are more at risk than they have ever been.”
Mr Whittall explained that the group, which opposed Miller Homes’ bid to secure planning permission four years ago – Middle Battenhall Farm Land Action Group – had been reformed to tackle the latest threat to the land remaining as green space.
St Peter’s Parish Council chairman Alan Tidy told people at the Friends meeting half of the Middle Battenhall Farm land was in the St Peter’s parish, adding: “It’s well used by the people of St Peter’s.”
He explained: “We are actually getting a lot of community support over it already. They’re saying ‘we won this two years ago, why is it back now?’”
He added: “I can tell you the people in St Peter’s are determined not to give up what’s left.”
People attending the meeting were urged to make their objections to the possibility of development at Middle Battenhall Farm and Evendine Close known by writing letters as part of the consultation process.
Catherine Kevis was appointed to the chair of the Friends of Battenhall group.
There is still time to have your say by going online
The current South Worcestershire Development Plan (SWDP) was approved by Worcester City Council, Wychavon District Council and Malvern Hills District Council in 2016.
It set out proposals to deliver 28,400 new homes and 300 hectares of employment land by 2030.
Using Government methods, it has been calculated an additional 14,000 new homes will be needed by 2041.
That is due to factors such as population increases, more people living in smaller households and affordability.
Despite more than 16,500 new homes being built since 2006, many people still struggle to get affordable housing.
Other issues being looked at include whether planning rules should be relaxed in town centres to support viability and vitality of high streets and if the green belt should be used to accommodate some new development.
All these factors have been set out in the Issues and Options document on which the public and all interested parties are being invited to have their say.
A series of roadshows about the SWDP have been held throughout the three districts during November.
People can still take part in the consultation online until 5pm on Monday, December 17.
Site-specific development proposals will be the subject of another round of public consultation, likely to be held in November 2019. A final report will be published for consultation and submitted to the Government’s Planning Inspectorate for public examination in 2020.
It is hoped a revised SWDP will be approved and published in 2021.