A LEADING conservation charity has branded plans to build 1,600 new homes on the edge of Braintree a threat to wildlife.

Essex Wildlife Trust has opposed the scheme by the Acorn Property Group, which has applied for planning permission from Braintree Council.

The group wants to build homes,a primary school and a GP surgery on either side of the Flitch Way, which links Braintree and Rayne.

In a letter to Braintree Council, conservation officer Dr Annie Gordon said the Flitch Way was a“designated local wildlife site” and would be “fragmented” by the plans.

She said: “This disused railway line west of Braintree has developed into a valuable wildlife site and corridor.

“Thick hedges generally bound the track, with grassland forming a central woodland ride and other areas where the hedges thin.”

Braintree and Witham Times:

Dr Gordon said this allowed species such as Rue, Yellow-wort, Lesser Calamint, Small Toadflax, Small-flowered Crane’s-bill and Flattened Meadow-grass to thrive.

The developers say the new settlement – called Brook Green – would make land which is currently used for farming available for public use, including as a football pitch, a children’s play area and a community building.

However, Dr Gordon said there was insufficient buffer space between the footpath and the northern part of the site and there would be “biodiversity loss due to increased disturbance, recreational impacts and predation of wildlife by domestic cats.”

Dr Gordon said if the council did give the go-ahead for work to begin on the 56.5-hectare site, then more buffer space would be needed to the north with a green bridge constructed over the proposed bus route.

She said bankside vegetation along the River Brain should be allowed to develop as natural wild habitat.

The plans for the site show a new roundabout on Pod’s Brook Road which would provide access to the southern part while the northern and southern parts will be linked by passageways underneath the Flitch Way.

Developers say the estate would be built in six stages, with the school, a local centre for employment use and bus stops built in the first stage.

There have been 94 objections to the plans.