STRONGLY opposed plans to build 1,000 homes at Colchester’s Middlewick Ranges have edged forward after the Government put the beauty spot on the market.

An advert for the sale of the site went live on Wednesday, but it includes an additional parcel of land which falls out of the land allocated in Colchester Council’s local plan

This increases the total land up for grabs from 86 hectares to 107 hectares – equivalent to almost 150 Premier League football pitches.

Colchester MP Will Quince has written to Defence Secretary Grant Shapps to express his dismay at the proposed sale of the site.

“The Ministry of Defence will be well aware of my and my constituents' concerns about the decision to proceed with the sale of Middlewick Ranges for the development of 1,000 homes, against local opinion but also despite considerable ecological concerns,” he wrote.

Gazette: Frustrated - Colchester MP Will QuinceFrustrated - Colchester MP Will Quince

Mr Quince also pushed for clarification over the size of the total sale site.

His letter continued: “The land to the south of Birch Brook was always designated to remain as operational army land but the parcel of land to the north of Birch Brook was to be retained as a local wildlife site and ecological corridor.

“Please confirm why this parcel of land which sits outside of the local plan is now included in the advertisement for sale. What guarantee can the MoD give that this parcel outside of the local plan will be retained as a local wildlife and ecological corridor?

“As I have previously suggested, there is an alternative solution to this which is to withdraw Middlewick Ranges from the asset disposal list and retain the land as an MoD training area.

“I appreciate that this will mean that alternative savings need to be made elsewhere but I would remind the MoD that this is not a disused airfield or military base, it is green open fields that have been used and enjoyed by my constituents for centuries.”

Berechurch councillor Dave Harris, who has also written to Mr Shapps, told the Gazette: “I don’t know if anyone will buy it with all the restrictions for ecology and planning policies that are in place, but what I don’t want is a speculative developer taking it for a quick profit.

“I don’t want them to sell it at all. It should be designated as a nature reserve.”

Gazette: Annoyed - Berechurch councillor Dave HarrisAnnoyed - Berechurch councillor Dave Harris

Why is Middlewick Ranges for sale?

MIDDLEWICK Ranges faces major residential redevelopment after being included as part of Colchester Council’s plan for 15,970 homes to be built in the city between 2017 and 2033.

The inclusion of the huge wildlife site, which is owned by the Ministry of Defence, in the council’s local plan sparked a backlash from residents who argued the beauty spot is an environmental asset to the city.

Despite the efforts of campaigners, 23 councillors voted in favour of adopting the local plan, including Middlewick Ranges, while five councillors voted against its adoption and seven councillors abstained.

Gazette: Site - Middlewick RangesSite - Middlewick Ranges

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

When the local plan was passed, the Town Hall saw impassioned pleas by some councillors and members of the public to remove the site, but the majority of councillors argued that voting through the blueprint would allow the council greater control over the development.

Speaking previously at a meeting of the council’s local plan committee, resident Richard Martin said he had been walking at the Wick for more than 30 years, adding its loss would be “catastrophic”.

The site’s price tag is yet to be confirmed, though its huge size has led some to think the Ministry of Defence is seeking tens of millions of pounds for it.