A CAMPAIGN group which is fighting against major development has criticised transparency around plans for new garden communities.

The Campaign Against Urban Sprawl in Essex (CAUSE) said councils in Colchester and Braintree need to be more open about figures.

In a viability assessment for three garden communities across Essex, contingencies for infrastructure have been set at five per cent.

This means that on top of each council’s budget for garden communities, an extra five per cent will be set aside if something goes wrong.

But CAUSE feels for developments of this scale, which could provide a total of 45,000 new homes each, it should be at least 40 per cent.

Paul Smith, the leader of Colchester Council, there were a number of contingencies for the project, which add up to about 24 per cent.

Rosie Pearson, secretary for CAUSE, said: “We don’t think that 24 per cent figure exists and even if it does, it’s too low.

“This figure should be in the public domain - what figures are they using and how are we supposed to take a view on it?”

Mr Smith said the five per cent figure was an extra contingency rate, on top of other contingencies which have been set aside for different aspects of the project.

He said: “The figures are made up of various different elements. In each aspect of the project there are different contingencies.

“It’s not just one figure we have put in, there are separate figures on top of that five per cent.”

Graham Butland, who is the leader of Braintree Council, added: “We are currently looking at a figure of 24 per cent for the Marks Tey site.

“The figure of five per cent which has been used by CAUSE is taken from a council report last year and is actually an additional contingency cushion on top of the contingencies already accounted for within the figures.

“We are also testing various higher cushion figures as part of the modelling process and this work will continue as we look to assess the viability of each of the sites.”

The deadline for the Local Plan consultation is this Friday.