STRONGLY-WORDED claims that £10,000 of grant money was lost by the Neighbourhood Plan working party because of "incompetence and intransigence" have been robustly denied by the town council.

The Neighbourhood Plan is one of three plans that will shape the future of the development of Ledbury over the next two decades.

Former town councillor and former member of the Neighbourhood Plan Working Party, Richard Hadley, said that the Awards For All Money had been "flushed down the drain" because of poor management.

He said: "The Awards for All money has now had to be paid back because the work was never done within the timescale; £10K flushed down the drain simply because of the incompetence and intransigence of Bob Barnes and his town council staff."

But Cllr Barnes, a former chairman of the Neighbourhood Plan working party, said the grant money, in fact, had not yet been lost.

"We are seeking an extension," he explained.

And Ledbury's mayor, Cllr Annette Crowe said:"As far as I know, we are re-submitting an application, asking for an extension, because of the change in circumstances."

The change of circumstances was the dissolution of the Neighbourhood Plan working party in November, although moves are now afoot to put together a band of volunteers to work alongside the town council's Neighbourhood Plan consultants, Foxley Tagg, to complete the plan.

Cllr Barnes said that, in any case, the Awards For All application, and the way it was handled, was not something he had been closely involved with at the time.

He said: "I would just like to point out, that the grant application was drafted by Mr Hadley and Cllr Liz Harvey, and the grant was not received until after I had been removed from the position of chairman.

"Therefore my "incompetence and intransigence" would have had no bearing on it's allocation, or spending."

The town council has also denied claims that members of the disbanded Neighbourhood Plan working party were not welcome as volunteers on a new Neighbourhood Plan group, to work alongside the consultants.

Mr Hadley said: "The original volunteers from the working party have been excluded from the newly formulated structure."

In response, town clerk Karen Mitchell referred to a town council release, from November, which holds the door open for both former and new volunteers in the new group.

It states:"The town council would particularly like to thank everyone for their valuable contributions and very many hours of hard work put in so far. It is hoped they will all continue to work with the town council and the consultant to bring the plan to fruition.

"However, new volunteers are very welcome."

Mr Hadley was also critical of what he saw as a lack of openness in the process of developing the plan.

He said: "The Neighbourhood Plan group was very keen to have regular, perhaps monthly reports of progress, given to Full Council, as the Town Plan has been doing since its inception.

"Again Bob Barnes and the Clerk have stood firmly against this, saying that the meeting minutes are adequate for the purpose."

He added: "It is very troubling that Bob Barnes, Foxley Tagg and Karen Mitchell have consistently stood in the way letting the Neighbourhood Plan process be transparent, open and accountable. All their instincts, for whatever reason, have been to cloak the project in secrecy, and prevent local people from getting involved, much less having their say."

Cllr Barnes said: "Mr Hadley's claim about secrecy can be dispelled by looking at the Town Council website, where you will find the minutes from the meetings. Is that not open enough?"

Town clerk, Karen Mitchell has released a town council statement, which said: "Ledbury Town Council totally refutes the erroneous comments made by a local resident."