Nearly 800 people have signed an online petition expressing anger at a new horse and rider training area in the north Herefordshire countryside.

Extensive landscaping at the site, at Juniper Cottage, Pipe Ashton west of Ludlow, appears to have already been completed, although in has to be given planning permission.

The petitioners describe themselves “as a group of horrified local residents”, and the site on the edge of Mortimer Forest as “a precious landscape and wildlife haven” and designated local wildlife site.

They claim the work has included “bulldozing trees in the nesting season, grubbing up of hedgerows, re-profiling of the hillside to create a level surface for the menage and laying an access track to it”.

A retrospective planning application seeks permission for a 35-metre by 18-metre training area (called a manege) “and associated groundworks”.

The amended application was resubmitted last November by Juniper Cottage resident Sally Toye, described online as an competitive endurance rider and qualified riding coach.


Herefordshire Council’s senior landscape officer Nigel Koch said he was “satisfied that the amended information has addressed my previous concerns” and that he no longer objected.

Given that most of construction works have been completed, its ecology officer James Bisset said: “To try and restore the site to its previously ‘managed’ state would in all reasonable consideration cause more ecological harm than benefit in both short term and long-term.”

His comment on the original, withdrawn application, described the site as “an ecologically interesting location with multiple priority habitats”, housing protected butterfly and bat species.

Herefordshire Wildlife Trust said it was “concerned that the work already carried out along with the current proposal will result in a loss of the LWS (local wildlife site) habitats”, adding that the ecological appraisal submitted had been completed only after the work was carried out.

Wigmore Group Parish Council said it shared the wildlife trust's conserns.

Nearby resident Christina O'Neill wrote in a petition update: “It is so important that precedents are not set where people can either cynically play the planning system, or simply just ignore it and face no consequences.”

The case, numbered 214251, is expected to be decided at a planning committee meeting on October 26, and which several of the petitioners intend to speak.