VETERAN politician Sir Bob Russell has urged planners to protect Colchester's green lungs against urban sprawl.

The former MP who is now Colchester's High Steward said the boundaries of a new country park should be defined before land is allocated for new homes.

He was spreaking out at a meeting of Colchester Council's Local Plan committee meeting which was looking at the development of green fields on the eastern side of Salary Brook going towards Elmstead Market.

Thousands of homes have been earmarked to form garden settlements at West Tey, between Marks Tey and Coggeshall, and east of Greenstead, near Wivenhoe.

Sir Bob has campaigned for years to preserve the borough’s countryside.

He said: “The map in the Gazette showed development spreading some two miles eastwards from Salary Brook, engulfing all the fields up the slope towards the wood at the top, between Clingoe Hill and Bromley Road along the dual-carriageway towards Elmstead Market.

“What I’m witnessing is the same behaviour as we saw in Mile End whereby developers, land-owners and officers chatted away, with little or no public involvement by which time it was too late to avoid the planning and environmental disaster we now see unfolding to the west of Nayland Road, as the first instalment.”

Sir Bob also made reference to the council’s four environmental assets policies, which aim to protect and enhance Colchester’s natural environment and green infrastructure including a green orbital surrounding the urban area of Colchester.

He added: “The report says a high proportion of the garden community will comprise green infrastructure, including a new country park around Salary Brook, which will be a minimum of 70-hectares along the Salary Brook corridor and incorporating Churn Wood.

“But what are the boundaries?”

He said: “The committee should, at an early stage, define the boundaries of the new country park. This should take precedence over deciding where houses would be built, and then find room for the country park after determining the residential boundaries.”

Consultation on the draft Local Plan continues until September 16.

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