Hugely-opposed housing plans for Middlewick Ranges have moved another step closer after the next part of Colchester’s local plan was recommended for approval.

The Colchester local plan sets out proposals for 15,970 new houses to be built between 2017 and 2033.

It is split into two sections, the first dealing with shared developments with neighbouring councils which was adopted in 2021.

The Tendring/Colchester Borders Garden Community, a new community of approximately 9,000 houses, is primarily dealt with in section one.

It is section two, which deals with developments specifically in the Colchester borough, which has come back from the planning inspectorate and is now set to be voted on by the full council.

At a meeting on Monday, Colchester Council’s local plan committee recommended the proposal for approval and waved the blueprints through to full council for a final vote next month.

The allocation of 1,000 houses on Middlewick Ranges dominated a near three-hour debate.

The MoD is expected to sell the land for development when firing operations move to Fingringhoe, despite hundreds of objections from residents.

Karen Syrett, the council’s lead officer for planning and place strategy, told the committee the plan would “tightly control” what development could take place on the Wick.

She told the committee without the plan in place, the MoD would be free to sell the site to a developer with a planning application for 2,000 homes.

Ms Syrett also raised the spectre of the MoD selling the site for another use besides housing.

She said: “I believe in the Braintree district at Wethersfield, the site there the MoD have declared surplus to their needs is being promoted for a prison.

“There’s other uses that could be put forward. Without a plan we can’t control development so well.”

Seven councillors voted in support of the proposal to recommend section two of the local plan for approval by the full council.

Green councillor Richard Kirkby-Taylor, who voted for the proposal, said he didn’t believe the vote left the committee “between a rock and a hard place”.

“A rock and a hard place implies there is some kind of sunlit uplands you can squeeze your way out into,” he said.

“We are not going to be able to find a solution that works and can keep MiIddlewick from being developed on.

“All we can do is find a way of minimising the damage, minimising the risk and allowing us to review it as soon as we can.”

Tory councillor Lewis Barber was the only committee member to vote against the proposal.

He said he had always had “deep reservations” about the local plan.

“My feeling is if we include Middlewick in any way at this point, we will not take it out in any review, it will be in,” he said.

“If we go in with an attitude of we’re adopting and then reviewing, we will review and still have Middlewick.”

He added: “I have confidence that we can defend against speculative development in the short time and I’m also minded on the timing that there’s planning reforms coming up.

“Because of those two factors, my concerns are slightly less than they would have been even a couple of years ago.”

He said Colchester Council had “willingly” put Middlewick in the local plan.

“It’s not that we’re here by accident,” he said.

Lib Dem councillor Martin Goss, chair of the committee, voted for the proposal and said: “I think up to 1,000 houses will end up on Middlewick over time.

“If we don’t do our job tonight, the impact could be worse.”

He said the shaping of a masterplan following the approval of the local plan could help “shunt” the housing on Middlewick into an area where it would have “the least impact”.

“The community can help influence that,” he said.

“If this local plan goes through, that is what you need to do. You need to engage with the masterplan in process. Attend the workshops, move that housing.”