FEARS badgers could be put at risk have caused a crucial planning decision on a controversial development to be delayed.

The plan to build eight eco-friendly homes on land adjacent to Curling Lane, Helleborine and Meesons Lane in Grays was due to be discussed last week but was delayed at the last minute when the Essex Badgers Protection Group warned it could put badgers at risk.

The concerns had previously been dismissed by the planning team which recommended councillors grant planning permission. In a report published ahead of the meeting, the council said: “An ecological survey has been provided which concludes that the site is generally of low ecological value. A follow up survey has found no evidence of badgers using the site.

“The council’s Landscape and Ecology Advisor agrees with the findings of the ecological surveys and has also found no evidence of current use by badgers.”

But as the planning meeting got underway on Thursday night, councillors were told the planning application would not be up for discussion due to an exchange between developer Zed Pods and the protection group.

Meeting chair, councillor Tom Kelly, said: “There has been a conflict of information over the badgers that are supposedly present on that site.

“This has been looked at by the council and they are confident the site is clear but that is in contrast to what the Essex Badgers Protection Group are saying, as such an email was sent to the applicant and the applicant has asked for the item to be deferred so they can bring the group in and find out what is going on.”

Mr Kelly added that the exchange had taken place just hours before the meeting began.

The plan attracted more than 300 objections.

A statement from ward councillors Martin Kerin, Jane Pothecary and Tony Fish said they were “bitterly disappointed” by the delay as residents have had the plans “hanging over them for a year”.