A TANK descended on Benfleet as scores of incensed campaigners rallied against plans for hundreds of homes in their neighbourhood.

Controversial proposals for 265 homes on green belt land south of Jotmans Lane will be decided by Government planning inspectors after developer Persimmon Homes appealed against a decision by Castle Point Council to turn them down.

Both sides will go head-tohead in a planning inquiry, which could take place from October 14 to 16, or from November 19 to 21.

Defiant residents and councillors protested outside the 21- acre green belt site armed with banners and placards, as well as the tank, to show the strength of feeling against the proposals.

Andrew Sheldon, who is Conservative councillor for St Mary’s ward, and who borrowed the tank for the rally, said: “The Government planning guidance is on our side and Benfleet residents are united. I will stand shoulder to shoulder with residents in the Jotmans area to fight this appeal, and together we will fight to win.”

The site has been earmarked in the council’s local plan as part of a wider development, north and south of Jotmans Lane, for 800 homes.

Tom Smith, of Shorefields, Benfleet, said: “Our green belt is being eaten up as there are houses being built everywhere. We need to protect what little we have left.

“This is farmland and they just want to bulldoze through it. The infrastructure just isn’t here for this scale of development.

“If the landowner wants to sell it, the developer wants to buy it and now it’s in the local plan it does sometimes seem like it will be rubberstamped, but the bottom line is we can never give up.”

Persimmon has now submitted its evidence for the appeal, criticising the council for refusing the plans in light of a “chronic” housing shortage in the borough and the fact that the site is being included in its new housing strategy.