LEDBURY Town Council "could be bankrupt" if the authority loses its battle with developer Bloor over plans for 625 new homes.

That's the view of former town councillor Bob Barnes, who believes the authority will lose to Bloor in the fight over the developer's appeal for permission to build the new estate off the Bromyard Road.

Win or lose, the town council’s decision to battle Bloor will land the authority with a bill of at least £105,000.

And with Bloor pushing for the council to cover its costs if the developer wins, the final hit to the public purse could be much higher.

After Herefordshire Council decided not to contest Bloor's appeal over the county planning committee's decision to reject the application, the town council was left to fight alone.

Despite the risks, the town council decided to battle Bloor's appeal because the plans had attracted 400 objections from residents.

But Mr Barnes said: “It is not money well spent. I don’t think Bloor has done anything wrong. They have not contravened any planning policies.

"The congestion on the Bromyard Road exists, and the new estate will make it more severe. It is not the developer’s purpose to maintain the functionality of the highway. That is down to Herefordshire Council.

“Personally, I think Bloor will win its appeal.”

Mr Barnes said that with the developer formally pushing for costs, “the town council could be bankrupt”.

Cllr John Bannister, who chaired the town’s enquiry group, to help decide strategy, said of the council’s stand: “It was a case of we are damned if we do and damned if we don’t. All we are trying to do is defend the quality of life for people in Ledbury.

“I don’t take spending taxpayers’ money lightly; really I don’t. We were objecting not to the development but the access proposals.”

The recent appeal, fought out online, was largely over access arrangements for the 625-home estate to the north of Ledbury viaduct.

Town councillors have expressed concerns over the potential pinch point under Ledbury railway bridge, where the Bromyard Road meets the Hereford Road, and also Bloor’s proposal for a single access to the new estate, with a new roundabout on the already congested Bromyard Road. One solution could be a second access point, under the viaduct.

The £105,000 bill the town council will certainly have to pay is for the barrister, solicitor and expert witnesses it hired to oppose Bloor at the appeal. These charges are separate to any costs which could be awarded to Bloor.

Ledbury resident and founder of the Voice of Ledbury online site, Yvonne White said: “It is money well spent if the town council can win. It’s unbelievable that anyone could send all those houses that way.

"The risk of costs does make me wary; but if the town council wins, that’s by the by.”

Ahead of the outcome of the appeal coming out, at around Christmas, the fight goes on.

Wellington Heath residents are particularly concerned about a new estate off the Bromyard Road, because access to the village is also off that road.

Town and county councillor Liz Harvey has urged residents to write with their views to Robert Jenrick, Housing Minister.

Wellington Heath correspondent, Peter Constantine said: “The Viaduct Site Appeal Enquiry has finished. Ledbury Town Council had a very well prepared case and is reported to be hopeful of the outcome. But be warned, this is not over yet. We need to fight on.”

Wellington Heath Parish Council is considering making a contribution towards the town council’s costs, subject to further information.