RESIDENTS fear a scheme to build 1,200 homes near Hereford could lead to water pollution and the loss of wildlife in a historic conservation area.

The Church Commissioners for England submitted plans in 2016 to develop the 235 acre Three Elms site to the west of Hereford, between the King’s Acre Road and Roman Road.

The proposals include demolishing the existing agricultural buildings and constructing neighbourhood, health and leisure centres with a new primary school and open play areas.

Janet Smith, of Huntington Hamlet Association, said: “The Yazor Brook is designated special importance for nature conservation with a significant wildlife population dependent on the watercourse. It is also a main tributary to the River Wye.

“Any contamination or pollution of the watercourse by this development and damage to boreholes would result in a major ecological disaster, closure of companies and loss of wildlife, which would take many years to recover from, if at all.”

There are boreholes across the site and local employers such as Heineken and Avara have submitted robust objections to the scheme to protect their businesses.

“While new houses need to be built, this land is not suitable for development. All previous planning applications have been refused,” Janet said.

“Prior to being included in the core strategy, Herefordshire Council should have requested a full land survey to be undertaken. It is a very complex site.”

The hamlet has four Grade II listed buildings, including the Church of St Mary Magdelene.

“While being within Herefordshire administrative boundary it can still be referred to as a small rural hamlet,” she said.

“It is significant, therefore, not only in its own terms but also in relation to the City of Hereford.

“The proposed Three Elms development of 1,200 houses will adversely affect the setting of Huntington Hamlet, which all local authorities have a duty to protect and enhance.”

Consultants working on behalf of the applicant say they have conducted an environmental assessment to establish whether there are any contamination risks.

The assessment concluded that, while ground contamination within the site boundary is not considered to be widespread, a number of potential historic sources of contamination have been identified, including areas of made ground and the historic railway line.

Developers would put in place a series of measures to minimise the potential for any residual risks arising from contamination or ground gas following completion of the development.

These would include the creation of hardstanding to act as a barrier to any sub-surface contaminants, the incorporation of an appropriate layer of clean fill in soft landscaped areas and the inclusion of drainage interceptors within the development.

They say if these measures are implemented the effects of the development in terms of ground contamination and pollution would largely be negligible.