CAMPAIGNERS have raised £16,000 to fund their landmark legal challenge against the £1million revamp of Basildon Golf Course.

Protesting residents have now lodged a High Court application for a review of the planning permission granted by Basildon Council.

Jack Barker Ltd was given planning permission in Sept-ember to build a new clubhouse and driving range and reshape the course with 120,000 tonnes of building rubble.

Since then, opposition from nearby residents, who fear it will be like a landfill site during the work, has mounted.

If a judge accepts the application, made this week, it could proceed to a full High Court hearing.

Campaigners believe the council, which said there were no grounds for refusal, had a string of valid reasons for rejecting the plans.

John Toplis, secretary of Friends of Basildon Golf Course, said he had researched the activities of the developer in other parts of the country and found planning permissions at other golf courses had been refused.

These included Staffordshire County Council last August objecting to the use of 150,000 tonnes of spoil for improving Tamworth Golf Course, because it would have been on "a scale similar" to a very large rubbish dump.

Mr Toplis said: "The council took the decision to approve this scheme without involving Essex Council Council, the waste authority.

"They went ahead in spite of concerns and objections from organisations such as the Campaign to Protect Rural Essex and Basildon Natural History Society." At a fundraising event last week, campaigners raised more than £3,000 for the legal battle with an auction and other activities. They had already raised £13,000.

Mick Toomer, chairman of the group, said: This is nothing more than a landfill operation thinly disguised as golf course improvements.

"If it goes ahead the dust will pose a serious health risk to local residents, many of whom are elderly and already have respiratory problems.

"Nobody, let alone people on pensions, should have to go to court to protect themselves from their own council. We have been forced into this."

Council leader Malcolm Buckley said: "We don't think there are grounds for a challenge.

"But it is up to individuals if they wish to speculate with their money.

"Now it will be down to the court to decide."

Ron Maden, director of Jack Barker Ltd, declined to comment on the legal action.