COUNCILLORS have pledged that Ross-on-Wye will not become a giant ‘housing estate’, but say they cannot grant special status for the grounds of the soon to close Chase Hotel.

Campaigners told a public meeeting last week they wanted the hotel’s 11-acre grounds protected from development as green space.

Town mayor Jane Roberts said the council’s Neighbourhood Plan steering group recognised the strength of feeling on the issue, but the land was privately-owned and they could not give it the status of recreational value or public access.

“Everybody recognises the importance of this site for the town and the desirability to put safeguards into the plan,” she said. “No one is suggesting the site should be covered in housing.”

And she added: “The neighbourhood plan cannot diminish the existing protection that exists under national planning law which has protected the site.”

Cllr Chris Bartrum said they had already spent nearly £40,000 drawing up the neighbourhood plan to cover the next 20 years of development in the town.

And he added: “I understand the professional advice is that if we put the green space in the plan, there is a 95 per cent chance it will be struck out by the independent examiner which would lead to more delays, more money and more uncertainty.”

Campaigner Sue Brazendale told the Monday, July 8 meeting: “It would be a tragedy to lose a charming and important for the space and the town for the future.

“Are we going to turn this charming town into one big housing estate? Please don’t do that.”

Chase Hotel owners Camanoe Estates Ltd – who include TV doctor Mark Porter, who grew up in the town – are closing the hotel on September 30, and plan to convert the 201-year-old property into apartments with five new detached houses in the grounds.

Campaign group Save The Chase 2019 wanted the town’s new neighbourhood plan to prevent over-development on the town centre Gloucester Road site, which was a medieval hunting ground.