BADGERS could scupper controversdial plans to develop hundreds of homes on Dry Street, the Echo can reveal.

Councillors will soon vote over a joint application from Basildon Council, the Homes and Communities Agency and South Essex College for a 725-home development across the current campus and beauty spot, to fund a £35million new college in Basildon town centre.

However, the Echo has discovered that a survey of badger populations across the site, which highlights that an ancient badger set will have to be destroyed to make way for the houses, shops and primary school, has been kept hidden from members who will make the decision and during a public consultation.

The council initially told the Echo the report was confidential because legislation designed to conceal the location of badger sets to protect them from badger baiters prevented its release.

Campaigners are now calling for the urgent release of the report before plans are agreed.

Frank Last chairman of the Essex Badger Protection Group said: “I have a lot of experience with these applications and in my experience no other council has kept them secret. Badgers can impact the size a development can be and in this case one of the sets is in the middle of the site and would have to be destroyed.”