LEDBURY'S mayor is warning that the dismissal of Gladman's planning appeal for a 425 home estate may not mean an end to speculative development in the town.

Cllr Phillip Howells said that would be a "complacent" standpoint, and he added: "With Ledbury so easily accessible from motorways, it is undoubtedly going to remain an attractive target for developers, particularly with the possible danger of Herefordshire’s housing land reserve going below three years."

A local authority is supposed to be able to show a land reserve for at least the next five years, and Cllr Howells said that existing planning blueprints for the next two decades may not be effective in blocking speculative development if that occurs.

He said: "If that happens, and it may, then the Core Strategy and the Neighbourhood Development Plan will not apply or certainly not have the same defence against speculative development as they do now, as evidenced by the inspector's report which quoted both as having influence on the decision.

"We therefore very much need to keep vigilant; but at least this Gladman appeal dismissal was partly successful due to a robust defence by Ledbury Town Council of the Neighbourhood Development Plan and its policies, which will hopefully continue to provide a case to prevent unwanted speculative development."

But the chairman of the town's economic development and planning committee, Councillor Dan Vesma called the appeal decision "a fantastic result for Ledbury".

He added: "It makes it clear that un-planned and ill-conceived development is not welcome here. Amongst the many who contributed, I would personally like to thank members of this council and the public who represented us all so passionately at the hearings, the planners at Herefordshire Council for being on our side and all of those who have contributed to our Town and Neighbourhood Development Plans.

"In our referendum, the citizens of Ledbury overwhelmingly backed our Neighbourhood Development Plan, and the whole town can pat itself on the back.”

If Gladman had managed to secure the green light for the estate, to the south of Ledbury off the Dymock Road, the plan was to provide Ledbury with 4.88ha of land on the site, for community facilities "that have been identified to meet the needs of existing sports clubs in Ledbury helping to support the community’s health and well-being".

But planning inspector Zoe Raygen, in her appeal report, said uncertainty remained over this proposed land transfer because extra funds would be needed.

She said: "While the transfer of the land would give security of tenure and the ability for the sports clubs to plan and invest, it would not give certainty to the provision of community facilities on this land.

"Funds would then need to be generated by the community group to provide the pitches and facilities to enable their use."

The inspector also raised concerns over the site's 'out of town' location.

She said: "The appeal site is not in an accessible location", and she added "given the significant distance to the indicative location of the open space and play areas for the majority of the residents of Ledbury, this attracts very limited weight.

"As a result, I do not consider that this development would offer social benefits by being situated in a location with good access to services and facilities."

But the Ledbury Sports Federation has long maintained that the town falls far short of the sports provision it actually should have for its population, and the search for new spaces goes on.

A joint statement from Ian Beer and John Wilesmith of the Ledbury Sports Federation says: "We fully understand the reasons for refusal, but we still need more playing fields and it is up to the planning committee to deliver these as soon as possible.

"The young of Ledbury cannot wait until they, the young, have grown up!"

Gladman was contacted for a comment, but no comment had been received by the time of going to press.