CAMPAIGNERS are convinced Southend Council has struck a deal with a housing developer to build homes on a flood plain.

Garrison Developments has offered to contribute towards the controversial Shoebury Common Seawall if allowed to build homes on Gunners Park, Shoebury.

The council deny any deal has been done.

Meanwhile, the Echo has discovered Garrison Developments is storing 44,000 tonnes of mud - earmarked for the seawall - on Gunners Park for free.

Ray Bailey, 70, of anti-seawall group the Friends of Shoebury Common, smells a rat. He said: “The whole thing stinks. It’s just absolutely disgusting.

“It smacks of someone making money, it’s just not right.”

Planning officers approached Garrison Developments about storing 22,000 cubic metres of soil and clay on Gunners Park taken from work to shore up Southend Cliff Gardens.

However managing director Douglas Carroll, who the council described as a “supporter” of its seawall plan, offered to store the material for 18 months free of charge.

Garrison Developments has outline planning permission to develop Gunners Park as commercial property, but Mr Carroll wants a mixed development of business and housing.

He has also offered to contribute to the authority’s £4.6million plans for a two-metre high seawall across Shoebury Common to protect 500 homes from tidal flooding - if he is granted permission.

Planning offers insisted they would be unable to guarantee Garrison Developments permission for housing in return for the free storage, or contribution, as councillors would decide any application in public based on planning guidelines.

Deputy leader John Lamb said: “Southend Council has always acted with complete probity when it comes to its relationship with Garrison Developments, as it would with any other potential developer.

“When a developer enters a formal outline planning application, it is perfectly normal for a local authority to meet with them subsequently.”

A spokesman for Garrison Developments said: “Any planning application that Garrison were to submit for the site would go through the statutory planning process and Garrison would be fully committed to involving local residents in a consultation process ahead of submitting any application.

“In terms of the improvements to the sea defences in Shoebury this is clearly a matter for the council as they take forward their consultation on the proposals.”