LEDBURY businesses and the local farming community have expressed serious concerns about the planned closure of the B4214 Bromyard Road for bridge repairs this winter, as talks continue with Herefordshire Council.

One Ledbury company expressing serious worries about the impact is the haulage company WSH Logistics Ltd, based on the Bromyard Road Trading Estate, which has been advised that a temporary new yard may be the answer.

Accounts manager Danica Ashman said: "Some of our lorries when loaded cannot pass under the railway bridge at the Bromyard Road/Hereford Road junction, therefore making the B4214 our only route to and from the yard. The alternative road out is up through Wellington Heath and up past Coddington: a task that could be possible, if it were not for the large number of overhanging trees and telephone lines crossing the road.

"In short, Herefordshire Council is expecting us to rent another yard, insure this yard, insure our loads while in this yard up to the value of £2million, run our drivers to and from this yard and fund a separate operator's licence. The costs would be astronomical for a small haulage firm like ours and the costs simply aren’t viable. We feel utterly let down by our local council. Their lack of understanding about haulage has been laid bare to us but it will be us left to pick up the pieces."

The Victorian Storesbrook Bridge over the Leadon near Staplow is in need of urgent repairs.

Herefordshire Council, the highways authority, has already agreed to postpone the bridge closure from November 1 to November 28, because farmers need to move produce about during harvest time.

This has been welcomed by the cider giant Westons, based at Much Marcle, because of the need for regular supplies of apples this autumn.

A Westons spokesman said: "Any type of assistance like this, that supports the local growers in the region to complete their harvest, is a positive. Our apple season is in full swing and will continue until the end of November so making it easier for farmers to get here helps everyone.”

But the NFU is still closely monitoring the general situation, on behalf of local farmers.

Sarah Faulkner, NFU rural affairs adviser, said: “This work is scheduled and needs doing, and we just hope it is completed as quickly as possible.While this is a quieter time of the year, work still needs to be done on the farms and there will obviously be some disruption.

“Our primary concerns are that farmers are not cut off from their neighbours, fields and stock during the works."

She added: “The NFU will work closely with members during the upheaval and we will also monitor progress as the development progresses.”

Concern has also been expressed by The Oak at Staplow, a pub set to be affected by the bridge closure.

A spokesman for the pub said: "It will have a major impact on trade both in a quieter autumn period, then, of course, our Christmas trade."

Herefordshire Council says it has listened to local businesses and will continue to do so.

A spokesman said: "We have made adjustments to the work schedule to reduce both the impact and duration of the bridge replacement and road closure. We are aware that some residents and businesses still have concerns and we are in ongoing dialogue with them. There are some operational issues that rest with individual companies, rather than the council, to address.

"We will do all we can to help address remaining issues before the closure on November 28.”

The bridge is then set to stay closed until the end of February.