RESIDENTS have protested after a school walking route was closed off ahead of the construction of a controversial planning development.

The Gazette was told the kissing gate leading on the Hawthorne field was chained shut on the morning of March 28, closing off access to the field to walkers.

Residents protested the closure of the field, stating that planning conditions to start the 44-home works had not yet been met, and arguing that the field should remain open until then.

Resident Lindy Wildsmith said: “They [the developers] have a licence to close the footpath for six months while building is carried out, in spite of the fact that they have still not met all the planning conditions, do not own the field and do not have planning permission.

“Meanwhile locals can no longer use the field as a green and pleasant shortcut to school and into Ross. If planning is delayed no doubt the licence will be extended for another six months.”

Last summer the Gazette reported on the residents who fought the scheme, who highlighted poor drainage, traffic congestion, and the site’s AONB location .

EG Carter and Co Ltd builders of Gloucester appealed after Herefordshire Council turned down the bid to build on the greenfield site between Middleton Avenue and Hawthorne Lane.

Approving the scheme with a raft of conditions last July, planning inspector Philip Major pointed to “the substantial benefit of providing a significant number of affordable homes, and the lack of any tangible evidence that the aspiration to provide allotments or more extensive areas of open space is likely to be achievable”.

“The appeal site has been accepted as being suitable for housing, and it is only the quantity of housing and degree of open space/allotments which is at issue,” he ruled.

More than 200 people signed petitions opposing the development, while planners also received more than 70 objection letters.