PLANS have been submitted to build 12 homes on a controversial green belt site where protected trees were illegally cleared.

The application, submitted by developers JP & MJ Gatrell Partnerships, is to build on land next to Catherine Road, in Benfleet, and will include parking and “amenity space” if approved.

But the site, known as Kents Hill Woods, was at the centre of controversy three years ago after residents claimed developers illegally cleared protected trees.

Chris Teeder, chair of the Essex Badger Protection Group, said: “We were informed that all the trees were being felled in the area and it was protected land.

“Someone had gone in and destroyed a badger sett as well. We had to go down with the police and get the whole thing stopped.

“The Forestry Commission then ordered them to replant the trees.

“We’re obviously concerned these applications keep getting put in.

“This latest application is causing concern among residents and wildlife lovers.

“The land shouldn’t be developed because, if it is, the badgers will end up in people’s gardens or in the roads.”

The Forestry Commission has since confirmed enforcement action was brought after the trees were cleared.

A spokesman said: “We previously issued an enforcement notice that required replanting of the site by March 2019.

“This has not been complied with and we are currently considering further action including prosecution.”

Campaigners believed at the time the move was to make the site available for development once irreparable damage had been done.

Similar plans for 12 houses were submitted last year to Castle Point Council but were withdrawn after the council raised concerns about the plans.

The plans received 29 objections from members of the public as well as concerns raised by other groups in the area.

The new application details plans for 12 new houses made up of a mix of two,three and four bed properties.

To share your views on the application, visit the council’s website at and visit the planning application.