DEVELOPER Gladman is pushing for a major expansion to the west of the town, using up agricultural land for a big new estate by the River Leadon.

But local politicians and residents have already raised grave concerns about the proposal.

One well-known former GP has even said the proposed 210 house development on green fields would amount to a "desecration" of rural England.

Retired Ledbury GP, Robert Scholfield added: "This company is contemplating the total encirclement of Ledbury with concrete and bricks."

The chairman of Ledbury Town Council, Cllr Nina Shields has also expressed concerns, not least because of the site's proximity to the river, which sometimes floods, and the impact on the local infrastructure.

Cllr Shields said: "I think this proposal is extremely worrying on several fronts, not least is the potential impact on the risk of flooding. Ledbury is short of land for sports facilities and for the additional health care facilities which will be needed by an increased population.

"Then there is the question of the capacity of our schools. The list goes on and all these requirements need to be taken into account before more land is allocated to housing."

Ledbury has been left open to speculative development because the settlement boundary for the town's neighbourhood development plan has been stripped away by an independent examiner.

The examiner felt that not enough consultation had taken place as to where boundary lines should be drawn.

And while Ledbury is bordered by agricultural land, it has no official green belt.

But Gladman is clearly aware of the ecologically sensitive nature of the site, which is basically two large fields, on the opposite bank to a much-loved beauty spot, The Riverside Park, and running right up to the borders of Redbank Farm.

A proposed play area and public space for the estate would be close to two established ponds, one of which dates back to at least Victorian times.

And public information boards for The Riverside Park indicate the area is home to rare species including rare wild flowers, kingfishers and otters.

Gladman was contacted for a comment and further information, but had not come back by the time of going to press.

However, a Gladman leaflet pushed through local letterboxes states: "A specialist ecology consultant has been appointed to survey the proposed site for protected species...whilst the additional surveys may identify that there are protected species on-site, the development proposals will provide adequate mitigation."

Concerning the flood risk, the Gladman leaflet states: "The developable area lies in the lowest category of flood risk", but a "drainage basin" would hold surface water run off.

Access to the estate would be off the Little Marcle Road.

The planning authority, Herefordshire Council, was contacted for a comment, but a spokesman said that because a formal application had not yet been submitted, "we don’t think it would be appropriate to provide comment at this time".

But county councillor, Andrew Warmington said the proposed development was in his Ledbury West Ward, and he added: "I would advise all members of the public who wish to express their opinion either way to do so on the Herefordshire Council website as and when the application is made.

"This means that there will shortly be major planned developments in all three wards. It reinforces the need for the three ward members, whoever they are after the May 2019 election, to work together for the good of Ledbury."

Former town councillor, Richard Hadley said Ledbury's flawed neighbourhood plan, now lacking a settlement boundary, was to blame for speculative housing proposals.

He said: "Why has Ledbury’s effort, despite the services of high-paid professional consultants and a budget of over £70,000, been so dismally frustrating, so riven by conflict?

"The resulting plan lacks almost every building block which would make it useful to our community: no settlement boundary, no employment nor recreation land, no protection of green spaces."