LEDBURY is firmly in the sights of opportunistic property developers, because of planning loopholes and the lack of designated land for new developments.

These are the fears of both the town mayor, Cllr Bob Barnes and the planning authority, Herefordshire Council.

Cllr Barnes said that Herefordshire Council should have identified a so-called "land bank" for the next five years, to direct developers to certain sites, but it had failed to do so.

He said: "There is no such provision. This makes it easier for developers to put forward proposals."

Cllr Barnes believes that another reason for developer speculation in town is that the present planning blueprint for the county, the Unitary Development Plan (UDP), is coming to an end, but a new plan, the Core Strategy, is still to be adopted.

He said: "If Core Strategy was approved, developers would have to comply with the policies of the Core Strategy. That would, quite possibly, put an end to speculative proposals, but not certainly."

As it is there is a possible "gap" in planning regulations, which may not close until a Core Strategy policy is in place, perhaps next year, after a planning inspection.

Cllr Barnes mentioned Wall Hills, south of the Ledbury bypass and Lawnside Road as areas which had attracted interest from would-be developers in recent times.

Herefordshire Council communications officer, Michelle Morgan said: "There are probably a number of reasons why there is developer interest in Ledbury. With there being a return to growth in the economy demand for new housing has increased across many parts of the country including Herefordshire. National Planning Policy indicates that local authorities should demonstrate the existence of a 5-year supply of housing land. Where they are unable to do this there is a “presumption in favour of sustainable development”.

"In Herefordshire’s case we cannot currently identify a 5-year supply of housing land. Our adopted development plan (the Herefordshire UDP) is out–of–date and we cannot yet give significant weight to the emerging Core Strategy. The absence of a 5-year supply therefore does make the county subject to speculative developments, however, this does not mean that all planning applications for new housing will be approved and the applications will still need to be assessed to ensure they are sustainable.”