OPPOSITION councillors have handed in more than 100 handwritten objections opposing major plans to build three new towns in north Essex.

Members of the Green and Independent alliance took the documents to Braintree Council’s Causeway House HQ just days before a public consultation on new supporting evidence for the garden communities project closed.

The councillors have held a series of meetings and workshops in recent weeks to help residents leave feedback on the scheme, which will see 10,000 homes built to the west of Braintree and up to 24,000 to the east at Marks Tey.

The coalition group says the meetings, which were held in Gosfield, Halstead, Silver End, Coggeshall and Stisted, were well attended and coincided with a host of parish councils working together to oppose the plans.

Leader James Abbott said: “We had a lot of people from Cressing and Tye Green wondering what their future is because you’ve got a community there that is 700 homes. There are consents and applications in for more than 1,000. They are seeing in the space of a few years their rural community completely changed into a town.

“The cross community working together has been superb and something I have not seen in over 20 years as a councillor.

“This is parishes talking to each other across the district.

“The response has been almost universal that people are getting very frustrated at the lack of a Local Plan and the speculative development it is leading to.”

Deputy leader Nick Unsworth added: “The response from the people that have attended in our meetings has been overwhelming in favour of stopping the garden communities.

“We have 35 parish and town councils in this district saying they object to this.”

The Greens and Independents have been critical of the Conservative-led Braintree Council for “failing to engage” with residents during the consultation phase.

The group says it will continue to campaign against garden communities and will instead push for council bosses to uphold the advice of the planning inspector and secure a Local Plan until 2033 before returning to the garden communities concept.

Mr Abbott added: “We have been accused of not wanting development and scaremongering, but that’s not the case.

“We are not diametrically opposed to any garden community ever. What we are saying is these very big ones are not needed now to satisfy legal requirements. Have a look in a few years’ time at them again on a different scale.”

'Silent majority support our vision'

Braintree and Witham Times:

A SENIOR Tory councillor has rejected claims residents across the district are uniting to oppose the garden communities plan.

Braintree Council leader Graham Butland says the Conservative group has sent leaflets to each household in the district informing owners about the latest public consultation and how they can get involved.

He has dismissed claims made by the Green and Independent coalition that many in the district are opposed to garden communities, and insists victory in this year’s local elections shows his party has a clear mandate to press ahead with the scheme and secure a Local Plan.

Mr Butland said: “While the Green and Independent councillors have been in their heartlands like Silver End and Coggeshall, they haven’t been speaking to people in urban areas like Witham and Braintree where the majority of residents in the district live.

“The housing need in those towns is far greater.

“There is a silent majority who, when speaking to us on the doorstep, support the garden communities and understand the need for more housing.”

Mr Butland added: “This is not just about helping the towns. We also want to protect the villages either from getting absorbed due to the growth of the towns or from being targeted by speculative developments.

“Our view is the best way to protect the villages is to build new garden communities.

“We don’t want parts of the district to be picked off by developers.

“They are all about building houses for financial reasons whereas local authorities like us are looking to create entire new communities which are properly planned and have the infrastructure to match.”