CAMPAIGNERS have accused both the Labour and Conservative parties of "overlooking" the issue of housing growth in the Braintree district.

Candidates from both groups have snubbed an invitation to attend a pre-election debate set up by CAUSE.

The hustings event, which will be held alongside a quiz night, will mainly focus on the issue of the council's local plan and vision for future housing in the district.

Candidates from all parties standing for the Coggeshall, Kelvedon and Silver End areas have been invited to attend the meeting, but there will be no representatives from the Conservatives after they rejected the chance to attend.

Labour had meanwhile not replied to the invitation when the Times went to print on Wednesday.

The snub has led to CAUSE chairman Tom Foster criticising both parties for 'overlooking' the important issue of housing growth.

He said: "I think it is quite significant there has been no real mention of the local plan on the leaflets and posters I have seen.

"We are expecting a lot of CAUSE supporters to attend the meeting. Many of them will have their own view and make up their own minds but I am sure they will have come to the same conclusion I have with neither party attending.

"I think the issue of the local plan is a fairly important one in the district as there are a lot of speculative developments being put forward. It is something that will be in a lot of people's minds and it seems like they are just avoiding it."

Chairman of Braintree Conservatives, John McKee, dismissed his party's need to attend the hustings which he says will mainly act as a 'fundraiser' for organisers CAUSE.

A quiz will be held after the debate to raise cash for CAUSE, however the campaign group insists the two events are separate.

Mr McKee said: "CAUSE is a political organisation which is actively campaigning against our candidates in the Braintree council elections.

"The so called 'hustings' are nothing more than a fundraiser for this organisation.

"As a result we feel it is more important to spend our time on the doorsteps talking to people, many of whom share our concerns about the need for more sustainable and well planned housing in Essex."

Phil Barlow, Labour councillor for Witham North who is standing for re-election, insisted his party were focused on addressing housing in the district and candidates were busy campaigning ahead of polling day.

He said: "Our manifesto is focussed on the provision of affordable homes.

"We have lived for many years with the district council tacking new housing on to the edges of our towns and larger villages without the necessary infrastructure being provided. It is vital that accompanying services and facilities are built at the same time, particularly for affordable home residents, who are more likely to rely on local shops schools etc.

"Our other manifesto issues however are very important too. All of our candidates will be in their Wards campaigning on all these issues between now and the election."

The hustings event will take place at Stock Street Barn Farm in Coggeshall at 7pm tomorrow.

To view the full list of candidates standing in district council elections, visit