CAMPAIGNERS fighting to stop a mass development on a former army training base staged a protest outside Colchester town hall as they accused the city council of “hypocrisy”.

Plans to build 1,000 homes at the Middlewick Ranges, in Colchester, have long proved controversial ever since being given the go-ahead by planning bosses.

Residents who are part of the Save The Wick group fear the private development will destroy what they believe to be a “ecologically precious space”.

And on Wednesday night about 50 of those campaigners came together to publicly voice their concerns ahead of Colchester Council's annual budget meeting.

One protester, Pamela Ponsford, who was celebrating her 60th birthday, revealed she had been going to the Wick since she was 13-years-old.

She said: “The Wick is the lifeblood and the lungs of Colchester that are left now.

“Abbeyfield is grass. This is natural habitat and if that’s gone, that is not going to be replaced .

"I really, really believe on my 60th birthday my priority lies here outside the town hall to make my voice heard as well as all these other people here.

“If we don’t do this, we’ve lost this for ever and ever, and we need to make a stand.”

Gazette: Species - Protesters want to protect rare invertebrates and other speciesSpecies - Protesters want to protect rare invertebrates and other species (Image: Newsquest)

Ecologist Martin Pugh, meanwhile, believes the Wick is one of the most important sites in Colchester’s history.

“Without intervention from the councillors and the planners, we are talking about the loss of about ten per cent of acid grass in Essex," he added.

“This is cataclysmic, a disaster for wildlife, not just in Colchester, or in Essex, but nationally.

Gazette: Chant - Protesters shouted 'Save our wick, save our houses'Chant - Protesters shouted 'Save our wick, save our houses' (Image: Newsquest)

"Middlewick is a nationally important site, in particular for invertebrates and all the other wildlife.

“For Colchester Council to declare a climate emergency in 2019, building on even part of Middlewick would really drive coach and horses through their commitment."

During the protest council leader David King, however, pointed out to campaigners that initial plans included many more homes than were approved.

He said: “We all know don’t we that 2,000 houses were in the original prospectus and that’s now not the case.

“What we are looking at now is a better place, is all I would say.”