A GOVERNMENT department has reiterated it will push ahead with the sale of a 120-hectare area of land in Colchester, despite opposition from councillors and Colchester's MP.

In a letter to the Ministry of Defence Grant Shapps, Labour councillor for Berechurch Dave Harris argued Colchester does not have sufficient infrastructure to support the building of 1,000 homes, adding that there are other areas of MoD land which would be better suited for development across the UK.

The future of Middlewick Ranges has been a highly contentious issue since it was included six years ago in the Local Plan, a proposal which involves the building of 15,970 houses in the borough of Colchester between 2017 and 2033.

Section Two of the Local Plan, which deals specifically with the Middlewick Ranges, was adopted last year when 26 councillors voted in favour adopting the Local Plan; five councillors voted against adopting, and seven councillors abstained from the vote altogether.

But in a response from the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO), the Government department which is overseeing the MoD’s sale of the land, a spokesman said the council will still have the final say as to how the land is developed once it is sold to housing developers.

He said: “Once sold it will be up to the new owners to agree, via local planning permission, how they decide to use and develop the site.

“This also includes any ecological mitigation measures.”

Councillor Dave Harris, who abstained from last year’s vote, said he was unimpressed by the DIO’s response, adding he expects houses on the land to be built purely for profit.

He said: “We need to see who’s going to buy it, though it will be a development for profit, obviously.

“Developers will want to build it, sell it, and give the profits to their shareholders – that’s how these businesses work.

“That, for me, will be the worst thing of all because there will be no infrastructure.

“The alternative was always the garden community project where areas will have their own facilities – that’s what needs to be done.”