IN the week that foreign workers arrived at Brierley Court a clash over the future of Herefordshire's strawberry fields in heading for the law courts.

As the first contingent of 1,000 Eastern European students prepared to pick strawberries from seven million plants in polytunnels, Herefordshire Council is pressing ahead with legal action.

It wants to force developer S&A Property Ltd to dismantle the unauthorised 300-pitch caravan camp and facilities at Brierley Court Farm, near Leominster.

The future of the site will be decided at a hearing in the High Court, London, tomorrow (Friday).

Hereford County Court granted an interim injunction to Herefordshire Council last Friday forcing S&A to 'down tools'. The company appealed against the ban.

The injunction stopped the firm from continuing work other than completing sewage and other 'make safe' works. It did not require removal of caravans already on site, though the council gave notice it was seeking total clearance including demolition of buildings.

Yesterday (Wednesday), the authority's tough stance was defended by its leader.

"I am confident we have done the right thing," Councillor Roger Phillips said.

"The company has shown little or no regard for the need for planning permission or the views of the local community. It took a commercial gamble that it could steamroller its way over the community and planning legislation. This has not worked."

Coun Phillips said last week's 18-1 decision by the northern planning committee to refuse permission for the Brierley development had given the council a 'strong mandate' for action.

He insisted there was 'no gulf or divide' with senior council officials who recommended approval and who recently called a Press conference to defend a decision not to take enforcement action.

"People elect councillors to make the decisions, not the officers," said Coun Phillips.

He had no criticism of the officials. They had done a professional job throughout.

Graham Neal, company spokesman for S&A, was unavailable to comment.

Last week the company defended its plan to provide proper facilities for migrant workers and said it would appeal against the planning refusal.