A PLANNING inquiry to decide if hundreds of homes can be built to the south of Droitwich Spa has now started.

A hearing has begun today at the Chateau Impney Hotel to determine if two applications to develop the Yew Tree Hill area of the town can go ahead.

The 10-day inquiry is being held after developers lodged an appeal against the decision by Wychavon District Council to reject two applications for 765 homes and a 200 unit care facility last year.

The plans were put forward by Barberry Droitwich Ltd for 500 homes and a care facility and from Persimmon Homes Ltd for 265 homes - all at land north of Pulley Lane and Newland Lane.

Residents from campaign group Save Our Green Open Spaces (SOGOS) are attending the hearing to make sure their voice is heard as they battle to stop the development .

Ahead of today's start, Droitwich Spa MP, Sir Peter Luff, moved to back those fighting the development plans.

In a letter to the planning inspectorate, he said: "I have always opposed this development as I strongly believe that it is not right for the town.

“In my two letters to the planning inspector, I have made several key points which explain why these proposed developments are completely unsuitable and inappropriate.

“First, the town is already rapidly expanding and the council have already approved another site off the A38 at Copcut, as well as further development proposed within the local plan. The town is therefore already responding and playing its part to reverse the national housing shortage by accommodating additional development.

“Second, in the local development plan for the area, the South Worcestershire Development Plan, this very site was left out as it was deemed by the council to be unsuitable and unsustainable. To allow a development here undermines the development plan process that has been adhered to by the councils when creating the plan.

“Third, there is simply not the road infrastructure in place south of Droitwich for traffic going towards Worcester.

“Finally, the site at which these developments are proposed is a highly valued asset to the town. It is used by local residents as a recreational area and provides homes for many species of wildlife. If the development were allowed to go ahead the landscape would suffer demonstrable harm.”

“I am aware that public opinion is not considered a proper planning criterion. However, the overwhelming public opinion over this proposed development, coupled with the facts I have set out in this and my previous letter and that will be presented to you at the inquiry, would mean if you were to overturn the council’s decision to reject the application it would be a serious blow to people’s trust in our democratic system.”

Wychavon District Council and others are planning to tweet updates from the inquiry using #yewtreehill.