COUNCIL bosses have said they remain committed to "responsible development and environmental protection" after being branded "hypocrites" by Middlewick campaigners.

Peaceful protestors descended on Colchester town hall ahead of the Colchester Council budget meeting to voice their disdain over plans for 1,000 homes on Middlewick Ranges. 

During the demonstrations, some activists - who fear the scheme could destroy wildlife and habitats - accused the authority of allowing the development to go ahead, despite previously declaring a climate emergency. 

Ecological expert Martin Pugh, for example, fears the environmental impact of the project, claiming it could wipe out significant amounts of local wildlife habitat.

Leader of the council, David King, has now responded to the protest to remind residents it is the Ministry of Defence (MoD) which is responsible for the former army training base, not the council. 

Gazette: David King, leader of Colchester CouncilDavid King, leader of Colchester Council (Image: Newsquest)
The Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO), a branch of the MoD, manages access, surveys, and potential buyer communications.

Mr King said: "While we understand and appreciate the passion surrounding the future of Middlewick Ranges, it’s crucial to remember the council does not own the land and has no direct control over its sale or development.

“In the meantime, the council welcomes and acknowledges all representations regarding the Middlewick Ranges.

"While we cannot directly influence the sale or development process, we are committed to ensuring any plans by any developer comply with the robust protections we require."

The Local Plan policy enforces strict environmental safeguards for potential developers.

The council also plans to launch independent ecological surveys in spring 2024, providing further protection for the ranges.

"The Local Plan Review process (2024-2026) will provide an opportunity to reassess the site allocation based on new evidence and public feedback," he added.

"The council remains committed to responsible development and environmental protection within its boundaries.

"We would encourage residents to continue engaging in the Local Plan Review process and to express their views on the future of the Middlewick Ranges."

Though not obligated to do so, the DIO had informed the council of ongoing surveys and to date no development plans have been submitted for council review.

Earlier in February, the Gazette initially reported on the controversial plans to construct the 1,000 residences at Middlewick Ranges, with protesters fearing the potential ecological damage.