LEDBURY residents were set to gather in the Market House yesterday evening (Thursday August 16), to hear details of secret Herefordshire Council proposals for the biggest shake-up of the town centre in centuries.

With the plan being leaked on to social media and elsewhere, public concern is mounting.

And the chairman of the Ledbury Traders' Association, Annette Crowe, is calling some aspects of the plan ludicrous, ridiculous and even dangerous.

Key ideas in the still officially 'under-wraps' review include making Bye Street one-way, from east to west, with a contra-flow for cycles; creating a paved square around the Market House, which would entail the loss of car-parking space and moving the bus stop; and using different colours of road surface "to differentiate carriageway and footway areas", although the square could also incorporate a raised table area.

There could also be paved raised crossings along the Homend and High Street; the Homend bays could be marked out differently "to reduce the expanse of the carriageway" and to give "a visual narrowing of the carriageway".

The proposed creation of a town square by the Market House also has implications for the future location of Ledbury’s charter market, which comes to the town every Tuesday and Saturday.

But there is also concern about the safety and wisdom of some of the proposals.

Mrs Crowe, a former mayor of Ledbury, said: "The idea of making Bye Street one-way is ludicrous. All the side streets would get a knock-on effect with traffic. Priority seems to be going to cyclists, but to make traffic one-way for Bye Street with a cycle contra-flow invites a potential catastrophe.

"This report was secret. It was not supposed to be in the public domain. People just cannot believe this is happening. The town-centre layout has been working well for centuries, and if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Mrs Crowe, a Homend trader, is also concerned about the potential loss of any parking spaces.

She said: "Any loss of car-parking spaces seriously affects business in the town. Get rid of car-parking spaces, move the bus stop by the Market House - it's absolutely ridiculous! Hundreds of potential customers could be lost, when trade is on a knife-edge."

She added: "That bus stop by the Market House is probably the best bus stop in Herefordshire. Moving it would be ludicrous."

The total cost of the town-centre shake-up could be in the region of £1.5m: money that could come from so-called planning gain windfalls, due to the building of Ledbury's new estates.

But Mrs Crowe said: "The money could be better spent elsewhere. We need a youth centre. The Homend from Orchard Lane to the Railway Station needs resurfacing."

Ledbury Town Council has been working "in partnership" with Herefordshire Council and the county council contractor, Balfour Beatty, to come up with the "Public Realm and Transportation Appraisal Stakeholder Review", and objectives from Ledbury's Town Plan have also been taken into consideration.

Herefordshire Council is promising wider public consultation.

Mrs Crowe said the Ledbury Traders' Association had not been consulted so far.

A spokesman said: "Balfour Beatty Living Places, on behalf of Herefordshire Council, is currently seeking the views of local community groups and stakeholders on the draft scheme for the Market House area.

"A wider consultation will take place, which will provide the opportunity for residents and businesses feedback on the proposals.

"That’s when it’ll be public."

The extraordinary town council meeting in the Market House on Thursday evening was called by the town council.