LEDBURY has missed out on government funding to improve the train station – and the MP says "negative stories" about the town may be partly to blame.

Speaking of his "incredible frustration" at the government's rejection of the bid for money to improve access to the station, North Herefordshire MP Bill Wiggin pointed to the recent costly court battle between Ledbury Town Council and a serving councillor, Liz Harvey.

He said: "The Department of Transport published the incredibly frustrating news that Ledbury Station has not qualified under this round of the Access for All scheme.

"I pressed the Prime Minister on this very subject again during Prime Ministers' Question Time on March 27. I have since spoken to the Department for Transport, who have told me that 300 nominations were considered for 73 places and that unfortunately Ledbury did not score highly enough on this occasion.

"Selection criteria included the level of local disability, footfall, usage, and value for money of the proposed works.

"I never stop promoting the attractions of Herefordshire but that has not been true of some people, and the very sad legal bill and negative stories about Ledbury might prevent the town maximising its charm and attractiveness.

"In future, rather than legal proceedings, perhaps taxpayers' money would be better spent on promoting our wonderful town."

Ledbury Town Council reserves have been drained to pay a £220,000 legal bill after the authority fought and lost a judicial review which was brought against it by Cllr Harvey.

Cllr Harvey had been accused of bullying staff, which she denied. A Herefordshire Council code of conduct review cleared her of the accusations in advance of the court case, which still went ahead.

The chairman of Ledbury Town Council, Cllr Nina Shields said: "The council is extremely disappointed that Ledbury Station has not qualified for the Access for All Scheme. The current Neighbourhood Development Plan group is working on a number of issues including access for the station, and the council is pleased to hear that Mr Wiggin is keen to promote the town."

But concerning the MP's claims that negative headlines are not helping when it comes to promoting Ledbury, Cllr Shields said: "We are not in a position to understand why previous councillors chose the legal route to resolve their problems. Every effort has been made to draw a line under this and move forward. Promoting the town is certainly on the agenda for the new council."

Mr Wiggin did not mention any councillors by name, but Cllr Harvey believes his comments were at least partly a criticism of her, for launching the judicial review.

She said: "I am not surprised Mr Wiggin takes the opportunity to divert attention from his own failure of Ledbury on the access front by seeking to imply that somehow my standing up for financial probity and standards as regards the Neighbourhood Plan is somehow detrimental to the standing of the town.

"On the contrary – ‘The Ledbury Judgement’, as it has become known, is cited nationally by Standards experts as evidence of the need for tighter legislation and tougher oversight of councillor conduct.

"I have every intention to continue to work openly and transparently to secure the best outcomes for Ledbury and its residents. I look forward to everyone else doing likewise."

There is still some hope that some Government money can be found for access improvements at the station.

At present, there is no effective disabled access at the station for passengers wanting to travel to Worcester or Birmingham, because of a bridge with steep steps.

This poses a barrier not only for disabled people but for parents with pushchairs. Some people choose to go to Hereford, merely to travel back through Ledbury on the track they require.

However, the Department of Transport has announced that £20million will be allocated for a 'Mid-Tier Access for All Programme'.

This aims to provide "smaller scale accessibility improvements" to stations which can be delivered using £250,000 to £1million of Government funding.

Mr Wiggin said: "We need to apply so that Ledbury station can be considered. Given that footfall and usage are key criteria we should promote Ledbury so that people use our station, shops and tourist attractions."

Improvements cannot come soon enough for some Ledbury residents. One, Poppy Lewis, said: "How do you expect a young mum with a new born and a two-year-old with a double buggy to get up the steps?"

Lauren Brooker added: "The station should cater for everyone but at the minute it’s restricting parents to young babies and the disabled. I don’t travel often anymore due to it being more difficult now, I have the double pram.

"Someone could have an accident on those steps."