Campaigners fighting plans to build 78 homes near a town centre beauty spot met with political figures to discuss their next move.

Members of the newly-named Heart of Witham Preservation Group - which is against the proposals to build on land near River Walk - joined town councillors and Priti Patel MP at a meeting at the town hall.

Councillors Ron Ramage, JoAnn Williams and Sue Wilson and Ms Patel spoke to the protestors on a range of issues surrounding the bid by developers Bellway and offered advice.

Rebekah McGrane, from the group, said:"We discussed Priti's involvement in getting it stopped last time when Bovis were the company who wanted it, the steps that she has taken to try and prevent it this time and what she advises we do.

"We spoke about how none of us can see how Braintree Council can possibly make an impartial decision, in light of the fact that they stand to gain £1.8m from the sale of the 'ransom strip'.

"Finally, she talked us through how the planning meeting will work - like us she was very keen for it to be held here in Witham.

"Cllr Ramage has offered to help us on that score as well as he has been on the planning committee in the past.

"We also briefly touched on the fact that, contrary to the landowner's letter in The Times the other week, there are lots of things that could be done with the house and land, without covering it in concrete and tarmac."

Ms McGrane explained that some residents have been drawing up plans to show what the land could be used for alternatively.

It includes a Gimsons house heritage centre, a pop-up cafe, a community gardening area and a nature area.

She also said a new website has gone live as the group has "been warned that this may run for several years."

Braintree Council has previously explained that it regularly sells land to developers subject to planning permission.

A spokesman said: "As a land owner, cabinet make the decisions on land sales on behalf of the council and the planning department determine planning applications which is a statutory function of local authorities."