CONSERVATION campaigners say creating a garden village close to an area of outstanding natural beauty would be “horrendous”.

Roger Drury, planning secretary for the Dedham Vale Society, said: “If you look at every village around here, there are all sorts of odd bits of land being put in with people wanting to develop on them.

“This is purely, at this point, an opportunity for any developer to put forward ideas, but they are certainly not at the point of planning applications. There will be major public consultation before any of this is incorporated into the council’s local plan.

“It is a speculative move by developers trying to take advantage of the fact the local plan is being reviewed. This would be damaging to the whole area. It would be horrendous.

“The Dedham Vale is an area of outstanding natural beauty and a development like this would come right up to its boundaries and would be damaging. We would be horrified.”

Anne Brown, Essex county councillor for Constable ward, said: “I have always thought the A12 was a barrier between urban Colchester and the villages.

“The area of outstanding natural beauty is important. It is of real interest and it is a treasure, and we should give it a good margin of green belt.”

Martin Bottwood, from Langham Parish Council, said: “If this plan is seriously considered, Langham Parish Council would see this as the start of a massive intrusion into the villages to the north of the A12 and urban sprawl moving towards the Dedham Vale area of outstanding natural beauty.

“A development of this size should have been included in the Colchester local plan issues and options phase as a completely separate growth strategy. At the moment, none of the growth options have indicated more than a proportional element of rural growth across the villages.

“The new local plan should ensure the protection of the countryside for its own sake and any projects of this scale would need to show their viability from sustainability appraisals.”