WIDESPREAD outrage over the inclusion of 1,000 houses on Middlewick Ranges dominated public comments on Colchester’s local plan.

Some criticised the quality of ecological surveys, others hit out at Colchester Council for ever including the Wick in the local plan.

But the vast majority of public speakers at the meeting of the authority’s local plan committee were united in their opposition to the idea of building homes on “rare and irreplaceable” grassland.

Grace Darke told the committee “destroying this habitat” would constitute “ecological and human suicide”, adding: “In nature’s economy, the currency is not money, it is life.”

She urged the committee to investigate an alternative local plan that does not include Middlewick, describing the decision as “a moral one”.

“Let’s be completely honest,” she said. “The Middlewick Ranges should never have been put into the local plan.

“Added in 2016, rushed through at the last minute, inaccurate ecological surveys that did not reflect the true value of the site – with some councillors stating the decision was forced upon them and they were misled.”

She added: “You do have a choice and this choice does not need to be made today.”

Richard Martin said he had been walking at the Wick for more than 30 years and its loss would be “catastrophic”.

“It’s the last large open space for residents of the area to actually go of that size for recreational purposes within walking distance,” he said.

Campaigners argue there was “no need” for Middlewick to be included in the local plan.

“It seems some people were hell-bent on its inclusion regardless of whatever evidence was presented before them,” said Mr Martin.

Richard Kilshaw said: “The strength of feeling against development here ensures your actions today won’t be forgotten.

“If you adopt this, it’s not going to go away, failures to follow procedure will leave Colchester Council open to legal challenges and we will fight this all the way.

“As demonstrated by other councils, you can choose to object, to delay and revise section two local plan and I urge you to do so.”