A DECISION to stop Herefordshire Council's planning committee from debating one of the largest housing schemes Leominster has ever faced has been met with incredulity by people in the town.

A reserved matters application for 414 homes at Barons Cross Camp has been submitted to Herefordshire Council by Keepmoat Homes, with both Leominster Town Council and Leominster Civic Society raising concerns about the scheme.

Ward councillor Felicity Norman requested that the application was re-directed so it could be debated by Herefordshire Council's planning committee – but this has been refused which means a decision will be made by planning officers.

Councillor Norman said: "I think the council should be open and transparent when deciding on such an important development for Leominster. We want it to be properly debated and all the issues to be seen to be publicly debated."

She said the development could add hundreds of vehicle movements a day to an already massively congested road system, with pollution levels already well over the legal limit at the bottom of Bargates.

"The applicants failed to consult or inform the town council or ward members about the application; both Leominster Town Council and Leominster Civic Society represent large numbers of people; it did not occur to people that such a large development would not be considered in public," she said.

Councillor Trish Marsh added that if the scheme did not go before committee it would bring the council into 'disrepute'.

"It is clearly a matter of public interest by virtue of its scale, its impact on an existing road already above legal pollution levels and the quality of the development," she said.

"Leominster deserves a proper transport study to look at the options that will allow the town to expand without damaging the health and wellbeing of residents."

Councillor Jenny Bartlett added that at cabinet on July 27 it was agreed to award the contract for the development and regeneration programme to Keepmoat.

"Surely Herefordshire Council now have a material interest as of this date if they have entered into a partnership or agreement with Keepmoat now? As far as I can see they now have to hear it at committee in line with the constitution," she said,

A spokesman for Herefordshire Council said there were a number of reasons why the application wasn’t directed to the council’s planning committee.

They said: "The development had already been agreed in principle a number of years ago through an outline planning application, which considered any negative effects the housing and / or traffic would bring against the benefits of the additional housing. The latest application also didn’t raise any new, unusual or sensitive planning issues.

"There were only seven objections to the development, which was incredibly low. Housing developments of this size and nature within our market towns frequently generate objections in excess of 30 or 40."

They added that the application is still being considered by planning officers and may require further amendments, which would mean further consultation with ward members and consultees.