A PLANNING inspector has ruled that hundreds of new homes can be built on the outskirts of Ledbury.

Jennifer Vyse delivered her verdict on Gladman Developments' appeal this week, giving the green light for up to 321 properties off Leadon Way.

Herefordshire Council had twice refused the bid last year, forcing Cheshire-based Gladman to appeal to the Secretary of State.

A five-day hearing was held at Hereford Town Hall in February when Mrs Vyse admitted "local feelings are running high".

Her decision to allow the scheme has been branded "a shame for the town" by ward member, Cllr Emma Holton.

"I just couldn't believe it when I heard. I'm shocked and very surprised," she said.

"It will have such a big impact."

The Conservative said it was important the town now tried to achieve as many developer contributions as possible, adding it was vital the fledgling Ledbury Neighbourhood Plan is put in place as soon as possible to give the town more protection.

"I think the decision is a shame for planning," she added. "Common sense has just gone out of the window. But it's important we move on and be as positive as we can."

During February's hearing, objections were raised over the site being too far from the town with some saying it would encourage car usage.

But in her conclusion, Mrs Vyse disputed this saying: "I am not persuaded that it is wholly divorced from the built extent or influence of the town."

She also concluded that the impact on road users in the area would be "moderate or minor".

Much was made of Herefordshire Council’s Core Strategy – the authority’s planning blueprint for the next 15 years – which concluded last year that 800 new homes should be built in the town, with about 600 going north of the viaduct.

Martin Carter, on behalf of Gladman, told the committee that despite the Core Strategy adoption, the council was still unable to demonstrate a five-year housing land supply.

He said any suggestion the Gladman scheme would harm the Ledbury viaduct plan was “baseless”.

The decision won't cost the council financially, however, as no cost application was made.

· Meanwhile, another planning inquiry involving Gladman got underway this week to determine whether a 120-home development can take place in Bromyard.

The firm has appealed the decision of Herefordshire Council's Planning Committee which has twice turned down a bid to build the homes on land off Pencombe Lane.

A six-day inquiry, chaired by inspector Stuart Nixon, began in Hereford on Tuesday when Alan Evans, on behalf of Gladman, said Bromyard is a "sustainable location for growth".

"There is no settlement boundary for the town in the development plan," he said. "Bus stops are accessible and within reasonable walking distance."

Rowena Meager, on behalf of the council, said the council's housing position shouldn't influence any decision.

"The fact that the council cannot demonstrate a five-year housing land supply does not mean this application should automatically be approved," she said.

The hearing is set to last until next Tuesday (12th) with a decision made at a later date.

Elsewhere, Gladman has also appealed a decision to refuse permission for 100 homes in Lugwardine.

That hearing will be held in Hereford from May 10.