MORE than 40 villagers have objected to proposals to cover around 88 acres with polytunnels for strawberry production.

Soft fruit farmer George Leeds has submitted new plans for the land at Highway, Lodge and Haycroft Farm in Ocle Pychard.

Mr Leeds purchased the former council-owned smallholding in 2017.

Herefordshire Council granted the site planning permission earlier this year but that application is now subject to a legal challenge by the Campaign to Protect Rural England.

Almost 400 people signed a petition opposing the previous plans for the site.

But county planners approved the controversial scheme by the slightest of margins.

The then planning committee chairman Phil Cutter used his casting vote to break the deadlock and approve the scheme.

Local resident Kathie Barrs said: “Strawberries are a resource-intensive crop, and this particular method of farming using table top structures has many elements that add to the carbon footprint of the strawberries that are produced.

“This development is on an industrial scale.

“This is a situation where a single financial interest is considered to be above the needs of others and the environment in which we all live. That is not the essence of sustainability as Herefordshire planning guidance note 36 clearly states.

“As the applicant has not proved that this development is sustainable, it should not be granted.”

Ocle Pychard and Withington group parish councils have objected to the proposals.

They say the polytunnels would be overbearing and would lead to the loss of ecological habitats and wildlife.

Parish councillors are also fearful of the impact it would have on road safety along the A465 and the noise impact the extra traffic would have.

However, planning consultants working on behalf of Mr Leeds say the scheme is sustainable.

“Polytunnels are agricultural development and are easily removed from the site when they are no longer required.

“Land developed with polytunnels and associated structure can easily and quickly be returned to conventional agricultural production methods, which means that the development will meet the needs of the present witout compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Residents have until December 9 to comment on the scheme and can do so by visiting Herefordshire Council’s website.

County planners are expected to consider by January 22.