Ross-on-Wye Town Council have hit back at proposals to build 1,500 new homes on a number of sites around the town.

The letter from the town council to Herefordshire Council slams the Place Shaping Consultation for Ross-on-Wye, citing a number of reasons including climate change and harming the natural landscape.

The very approach of the consultation has been criticised for failing to address a plethora of requirements for expanding the town so much.

The council have said that with poor public transport provisions and a lack of access to rail transport in Ross, the development will have a detrimental impact on the environment as personal car use will almost certainly increase.

The natural landscape of the area will also be affected as a result of the works. As the only market town in an area of natural beauty (AONB), construction on this scale will not only harm the visual appeal of the landscape, but also exacerbate River Wye pollution issues, which the council have said have been increasing dramatically in recent years.

Councillors also claim that the plans fly in the face of local opinion, saying it would breach the Ross-on-Wye Neighbourhood Development Plan settlement boundary. Whilst the plan only went to referendum and was adopted last year, it has already been disregarded by this consultation. They added that Herefordshire Council encourages towns and parishes to engage with neighbourhood planning process, but when it happens the thoughts of residents are thrown out.

Councillors claim that Ross-on-Wye has delivered in excess of the current local plan’s allocation, but that this hasn’t been taken into account. There is a lack of infrastructure to support the 1,500 additional houses to the town’s existing commitments and those already delivered.

Poor connectivity for developments east of the A40 have also been cited as a substantial problem. This particular issue has previously been cited by Herefordshire Council as a consideration for refusing development in this area.

However the town council have not completely rejected all of the plans entirely. They have said that development area four at Broadmeadows and Tanyard is an “extremely significant and complex” site. Whilst the town council have said they are supportive of this site being developed, they urge the necessity for an holistic approach, taking into account the infrastructure and services needed to support the number of new residents. Without a comprehensive approach to the site, Ross’ existing services will have to shoulder the needs of more residents without additional support.

“I would particularly stress that putting 1,500 additional homes in Ross would go against Herefordshire County Council’s ambitions to encourage active travel measures and their net zero carbon ambitions for Herefordshire. A combination of excellent road connections, but no railway station, inevitably means that the majority of those additional houses are likely to be filled by commuters and some long distance at that. This is because only so many can work from home and we are unlikely to see an expansion in local jobs to absorb that number of working incomers.”

Town and county councillor Louis Stark, West Ward

The consultation has already gathered a number of opinions and concerns during its process. It recognised that there is a lack of sustainable transport options in Ross. Responses indicated a need for improved coach and bus stops.

Concerns from those consulted also expressed a preference for developments to be geared toward the east and north, due to problems likely to be caused by the single-track roads to the south, which would struggle with an increase in traffic.

There have been a number of anticipated problems, these include: flooding from both the River Wye and Rudhall Brook; the need for more GP surgeries, as the current ones are currently under pressure; and the need for additional school places. It also recognises the lack of brownfield sites available for development and the limited highway capacity and traffic congestion.

In order to achieve the proposed growth targets for housing and employment, it is likely that a combination of land to the north, south and east of Ross will be needed to achieve their targets. The plans recommend improvements to the town centre to deal with the extra footfall brought in by the developments.