DOZENS of residents are opposing proposals to cover 91 acres of agricultural fields with polytunnels.

Applicant George Leeds wants to install 11 blocks of polytunnels for strawberry table top production on land at Lodge Farm and Highway Farm off Monkton Farm Lane, in Ocle Pychard.

The scheme also includes plans for the siting of 72 caravan pitches for seasonal workers with a mini sewage treatment plant and worker facilities within existing farm buildings at Lodge Farm.

However, many residents fear the proposals would hurt tourism, increase flood risk, add heavy traffic to local roads and hurt the environment if approved. They also say the polytunnels would be a dominant feature that could be seen from historical footpaths.

Phil Burden, a resident, said: “We can see the blight of the polytunnels in and around the Ledbury area.

“Why are these polythene monstrosities being continually allowed by rural councils?

“This is not only about the exploitation of the countryside, it is about disruption to the wellbeing and peace of mind of people.”

However, architects working on the scheme say they have conducted a visual impact assessment and have prepared a landscaping plan to form buffer zones.

They say plans are an opportunity to re-create commercial apple orchard enclosures which were characteristic of the historical ordnance survey maps up until the mid-20th-century.

The area within the application site is 159 acres, of this 91 acres will be covered with polytunnels, the remaining 68 acres will be used to provide the seasonal workers campsite, worker facilities, cold storage, access tracks, ecological, landscaping and water management enhancement measures.

A separate planning application will be made to convert two existing agricultural buildings at Lodge Farm to homes for permanent agricultural workers and managers involved in the operation.

Residents have until July 24 to comment on the proposals and county planners are expected to decide on the plans by September 12.