A HOSPICE has vowed to fight on with plans to build a new centre on green belt land.

Haven’s Hospices say they are devastated Southend Council planning officers have recommended a refusal of plans for a £15million hospice off Belton Way West in Leigh.

Chief Executive Andy Smith said they would attend next week’s development control meeting to put their case but added an appeal would be lodged immediately if the application is turned down.

Mr Smith claimed that in a succession of pre-application meetings planning officers at Southend Council had indicated the proposal for a purpose-built 16-bed hospice would be looked upon in a favourable light. But a subsequent report said the case for building on green belt had not been met.

Mr Smith said: “An enormous amount of time and investment was put into meeting with council planning authorities. To have it agreed every step of the way and to get to the stage where all are satisfied, it’s as if those meetings didn’t happen.”

Andy Lewis, Southend Council’s corporate director for enterprise, tourism and the environment, angrily dismissed the hospice claims and said officers had in fact warned of the “considerable challenges” that would have to be overcome to get the plans approved.

He said: “I am extremely disappointed that Havens have chosen to make these wholly unfounded claims, particularly as they come before the Development Control Committee has had chance to consider the report prepared by officers.”

The application will be heard on Wednesday, October 17. The meeting will be held at 2pm in the Southend Council Chambers, Civic Centre, Victoria Avenue.