CAMPAIGNERS are warning if plans to bring forward Colchester’s controversial local plan are put on ice, it will open up the borough to speculative and unwanted developments.

Members of the Colchester Council’s local plan committee are set to agree a way forward next week, having been presented with three options in June.

Although planning officers have made no clear recommendation to the committee, whatever decision is taken could lead to at least a year’s delay, during which the borough will be open to speculative developers.

Both Braintree and Tendring councils have already signalled support for pausing the process but Colchester Council bosses have held off showing their hand.

But Rosie Pearson, secretary of the Campaign Against Urban Sprawl in Essex, warned a pause will leave the borough open to unwanted and speculative development.

Officers claim deciding to pause the process - which would include finalising plans for a proposed rapid transit system from the new settlement and key new link roads in the east of Colchester - would lead to a year-long delay but Mrs Pearson argued it could be much longer.

She said: “Every single milestone which has been set has been shifted - there has been persistent delays.

“All the while, this will leave the borough open to speculative developers and unwanted developments, the likes of which Tendring has seen over the past few years.

“It’s the bread and butter planning which matters to people and rather than these vanity projects the councils are insistent on pursuing.”

Cause members have called for Colchester to pause the new town plans but continue on with the section of the local plan which relates only to Colchester - the first option put forward by a planning inspector.

Legal experts’ advice states each council must jointly agree an option for the process to move forward.

Colchester has a local plan, a masterplan for development, but it is set to run out.

Mrs Pearson added: “I would say to committee members: ‘Ask questions of the officers,’ because they are the same people who, for two years, led plans which were ultimately found to be unjustified and unsound, as Cause had consistently pointed out.

"We need the greatest protection for the villages.”