CAMPAIGNERS fear work to develop a controversial recycling depot is already underway before planning permission is approved.

Residents and politicians are concerned about the level of activity taking place on the land off Terminus Drive, Pitsea, including fencing off of the site and adding a demountable office.

Heard Environmental, based on Basildon’s Burnt Mills Industrial estate, has submitted a planning application for a waste transfer station to deal with 50,000 tonnes of recycling a year on the land.

However, it has yet to get the green light from county councillors with a decision not due until February.

Officers from County Hall planning department visited yesterday following a complaint.

The firm, which recycles demolition and skip waste, maintains it has not carried out any work yet which requires permisison.

Residents hope plans will not be approved amid complaints that Pitsea has had its fair share of waste sites.

Pitsea tip, a major landfill site for the region, will remain open until at least 2015, when a new large-scale rubbish treatment plant and recycling centre is set to open in Courtauld Road.

Mike Hodges, 70, from Pitsea Mount Community Association, said: “There is a lot of hardtsanding down there to cover the ground, a wood crusher to make it into pulp for chip board and it has all been fenced off, while a public footpath at the side is being cleared. I can’t see why they are going to that expense when there is no decision.”

Sandra Hillier, county councillor for Pitsea, will be on the development committee which makes the decision.

She said: “They have been working down there for some time and I have asked officers to go do and see what is going on. It is my understanding the committee will be in February and I have asked if a stop notice preventing any more development can be served.”

She said she had to keep an open mind as she was on the committee, but added: “I am yet to be convinced at the moment.”

The site was bought by Dean Buffoni, director of Bedrock Concrete, last year for £150,000.

Mark Woodger, planning agent for Heard Environmental, said: “The site has been fenced bit off with some surfacng, but no major building work. There is an office on the site to deter trasspassers, but it can be moved any time.”

He added it was a local business looking to expand, which would retain jobs and could create more and that the work so far was at the firm’s own risk before planning was approved.