DISGRUNTLED Basildon councillors claim Essex County Council has “kept them in the dark” over the giant waste plant proposal.

Gavin Callaghan, Labour leader of Basildon Council, wants to find out from the county council when it was first aware of the plan.

He said: “We have to understand why the people of Basildon, why the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, why others potentially have been kept in the dark about something that has been coming down the track for some considerable time.”

The councillors also claim that a consultation launched by waste firm Clearaway has loaded questions and is leading people to agree to the plans.

Mr Callaghan added: “I have received lots of feedback from residents particularly from my ward in Pitsea who are outraged that the questionnaire is predominately asking supportive questions for the development.”

He said it is a “very loaded piece of consultation propaganda”.

Andrew Baggott, leader of the Basildon Tories also raised concerns over the styling of the questions and said residents had contacted him about it too.

Paul Whitehair, from Clearaway, which is behind the plan said: “The questionnaire was designed to address a number of the key points about the plans – including the aim to divert waste from landfill and generate low carbon energy – however it also provides plenty of space for respondents to give us their views, whatever they are.

“All comments will be reviewed and summarised as part of a report which will accompany the planning application.”

The Echo asked Essex County Council for a response to the specific claims but it pointed to a previous statement

Tony Ball, Essex County Council’s cabinet member for economic development, said: “Clearaway Recycling Ltd have committed to engage with the community before any planning application is submitted.”