CAMPAIGNERS have labelled proposals to engage with residents over plans for three new garden towns in north Essex a sham.

A group of organisations and parish councils have hit out at the latest round of engagement announced by North Essex Garden Communities Limited.

The groups say the firm is prematurely opening another round of engagement when the "ink will be barely be dry" on the last, which closes on September 30.

Rosie Pearson, a spokesman for the Campaign Against Urban Sprawl in Essex (Cause), said: "North Essex residents are fed up with pointless consultations in which responses are ignored, and confused why NEGC Ltd is doing separate work at tax-payers’ expense.

"People have been telling the authorities since 2015 that their new town proposals are unwanted, undeliverable and unsustainable. Nothing has changed. The message that we are hearing as we deliver 25,000 flyers is very strong. The new towns are not wanted."

The groups have called for the firm not to spend any more tax-payers cash on engagement periods until the garden community plans, which could see 43,000 homes built, have been found sound, or not, by the Planning Inspectorate.

Wivenhoe Town Councillor Andrea Luxford-Vaughan said: "We are astonished and angry to see in the Housing Infrastructure Bid recently granted for a link road to ‘unlock’ 7,500 homes, the authorities state that the proposals have the support of communities. This could not be further from the truth.

"The authorities and NEGC Ltd know full well their east Colchester plans are deeply unpopular. Engagement is always on their terms. When we ask specific questions they run away.

"It is a disgrace to consult again when, despite years of feedback from us, nothing changes and the authorities tell government the opposite of the truth.”

Richard Bayley, managing director of NEGC Ltd said the Housing Infrastructure Bid announcement was "a big step forward" and the engagement process would help residents' "shape and influence" the final proposals for the developments.

"There is a clear difference between this sort of collaborative and participative engagement and a statutory public consultation exercise that is specifically designed to get comments on defined or detailed policies and proposals," he said.

“We want maximum involvement from the public and will use a variety of ways to engage with them.

"The information we use will build on the feedback we got from the councils’ 2017/18 Issues & Option consultation.

"There will be no layouts or detailed plans at this stage.

"Instead the feedback and discussions will result in a range of options which we will discuss at subsequent public engagement events that will take place after the outcome of the Local Plan examination during 2020.”

Cause plans to run a series of public events in September to discuss the latest garden community proposals.