PROTESTERS wearing animal masks are taking a stand against plans to build hundreds of homes on green belt land.

Extinction Rebellion is staging two protests today in an effort to block plans for homes on undeveloped land across Thundersley and Rochford.

More than 50 campaigners are set to wear animal masks and arrive dressed in black outside the Castle Point Council offices im Thundersley and Holt Farm Junior School Road in Rochford.

Plans for 637 homes to be built off Ashingdon Road, Rochford, are being considered while Daws Heath, Thundersley, is included as a site in Castle Point’s housing plan for the next 20 years.

Jon Fuller, who is taking part in the protests, said: “We’re very concerned at the loss to the wildlife habitat. We need to be protecting it at all costs.

“I understand there is a need for homes, but we are asking for a change in strategy.

“There seems to be an acceptance to just build on green belt land. Why can’t we improve policies to build in town centres?

“We don’t need high-rise tower blocks, but medium rise, with six storeys, would be absolutely fine.”

Mr Fuller hopes both protests will attract more than 25 people to each. Both will be held at social distance.

The Daws Heath land, popular with woodland walkers, has been touted for years as a prime location for developers to build homes.

The Government’s planning inspectorate is currently deciding whether to approve Castle Point Council’s housing plan.

Christine Austin, the co-founder of the Rochford Supporters Group, thanked Extinction Rebellion for raising awareness and “taking the fight” to bosses.

The Rochford Supporters have previously held protests over the huge plans, from Bloor Homes, for more than 600 homes off Ashingdon Road.

The group fears the road will be overcome with traffic if the plans are approved.

She said: “Any protest against these plans is a good thing.

“Residents are really unhappy at them. They are backed by a lot of people, so it will help.”

Extinction Rebellion has encouraged protesters to be dressed in black, carry banners, and wear animal masks.

Jeffrey Stanley, Conservative leader of Castle Point Council, insisted the protesters “had got the wrong end of the stick”.

He said: “Fifty-five per cent of Castle Point is green belt land. If the local plan is approved, just five per cent of that land would become homes.

“I understand their concerns, but we need homes.”

Both protests are taking place today, from 4.30pm to 6.30pm.

Castle Point Council urged protesters to “respect Covid regulations”.

A spokesman for Bloor Homes said: “Bloor Homes has worked closely with the required statutory bodies throughout the planning process for its development at Ashingdon Road, Rochford, and can confirm all stipulations have been met with no statutory objections.

“As part of the planning process Bloor Homes undertook a full and extensive Ecological Survey, the results and mitigation measures of which have been supported by Rochford District Council and Essex County Council, and will be subject to further conditions, restrictions and licenses overseen by Natural England.”