Campaigners have raised questions over a charity's plans to sell them a series of historic tunnels for £1.6 million by claiming their commercial value is only £600,000.

Birmingham-based charity Jericho Community Project had planned to buy the Second World War tunnels at Drakelow near Kidderminster, Worcestershire, and convert them into a training facility for ex-offenders and the long-term unemployed.

But after opposition from residents, who have since formed the Drakelow Tunnels Preservation Trust to fight the plans, Jericho has offered to act as a negotiator and sell the site to them.

The charity said the sale must be agreed before its controversial proposals go before planning chiefs at Wyre Forest District Council next month.

Residents said the 50-acre site has been up for sale for seven years but the owners have failed to find a buyer because they could not get planning permission for a variety of schemes.

Before offering the site to the DPT, Jericho said it would use private donations to purchase the green belt site so it could develop it into a training facility to help 30 long-term unemployed people gain work.

Richard Beard, chief executive of Jericho, refused to confirm the price of the site but said the Ley Hill Trust, a family-owned trust, was among those donating money towards the venture.

But the DPT said the site was worth only £600,000 and questioned why the charity would pay out such a large figure to help a relatively small number of people.

Mick Freer, chairman of the DPT, said: "In commercial terms Richard [Beard] described the purchase deal as 'commercially barking mad' but argued that this was of no consequence to Jericho so long as they obtained a facility, no matter what the price being paid was, through grant funding.

"While members of DPT could understand Richard's approach regarding the obtaining of a potential facility, they argued that it was obscene to pay an exorbitant price through grant funding when better value for money could make those funds available for more projects and beneficiaries.

"If the objective of the Jericho project was to confine the 50-acre site to 30 trainees, it seemed immoral to spend a seven-figure sum to purchase the site and then obtain a further £2 million or so through grant aiding to develop the site for just 30 people."

In an email to DPT, Mr Beard said: "I'm pleased to inform you that following lengthy discussion, Jericho would be prepared to sell the site to the DPT for £1.6 million. The DPT must provide proof of funds by March 31 (to enable us to withdraw the planning application in advance of the April planning committee)."

Mr Beard added: "I think the trust was always clear about its main objective to buy the site, either from us or from the current owners.

"We were hoping there would be some compromise but it is quite clear there is no middle ground.

"The site has been available for a number of years.

"It has been put on the market in the past and that was widely publicised but at that time local residents weren't interested."