A CONTROVERSIAL plan to build 99 homes on the green belt in Billericay has been narrowly approved by councillors.

The new homes will be built on land in Southend Road, and were given the green light on Wednesday night at a development control committee meeting.

The plans had been recommended for approval by council officers, but were still hotly debated and narrowly passed six votes to five.

According to the plans, 37 per cent of the new homes will be classed as “affordable housing” and council officers had suggested the need for affordable housing outweighs the impact on the green belt.

The site was previously included in Basildon’s draft local plan - with an allocation of up to 500 homes - before the plan was withdrawn.

Kevin Blake, councillor responsible for the Burstead ward, voted against the plans.

He said: “We shouldn’t be building on green belt. This isn’t special circumstances.

“Burstead has already had a lot of development being passed by the inspectorate on the green belt and it has had enough.

“I feel very strongly, and I certainly don’t support it. It is very frustrating that it has been approved.

“One argument was about ‘tidying it up’ where there have been cars on the site that shouldn’t be there. Then the council should have acted an enforcement notice. We are sending out the wrong message, we should be fighting against this.”

The proposed development be a mix of four one-bedroom homes, 23 two-bedroom homes, 24 three-bedroom homes, 31 four-bedroom homes, and seven five-bedroom homes.

Craig Rimmer, Pitsea councillor on the planning committee, added: “I think it was the wrong decision.

“It is for colleagues on the meeting to vote with their own conscious, but I felt that there was a clear steer from the heritage officer that their heritage assets themselves would have harm at a medium level.

“I also think it is nonsensical that one of the arguments put forward that there were cars on the open green belt, abandoned cars and because they were getting cleared for this, we should be grateful.

“Those cars shouldn’t have been there, enforcement action should be taken, not to build houses.”