RESIDENTS are fighting to save their "idyllic" village from plans to build 365 new homes there.

Hawkwell is one of the places Rochford District Council says must cope with extra housing to help the district fill its Government housing quota.

Whitehalll has told the council it must find room for 2,200 more homes by 2021.

But villagers say so much extra development would destroy village life as they know it. And they insist local roads and schools would be unable to cope with so many newcomers.

Hawkwell Action Group has organised a petition to fight the development and recently staged a meeting attended by 350 residents.

Roy and Christine Roostan were at the meeting. Mr Roostan, 68, said: "I've lived in Rectory Road for 19 years and my wife for 33 years. It used to be idyllic.

"We fully realise these houses have to be built somewhere, but why 365 in one place, in Hawkwell?

"It will turn our village into a town and destroy the way of life for the 4,000 residents.

"The strength of feeling is very high. Hawkwell just doesn't have the infrastructure to cope.

"We are worried it is a done deal and we have not had a chance to have our say on it."

The action group says three sites have already been earmarked for the homes - a field off Mount Bovers Lane, land behind factories in Main Road, near Thorpe Road and fields behind Rectory Road at Windsor Gardens.

Rather than adding to the villages, Hawkwell Parish Council believes the district should fill its quota by building a brand new community to the west of Rayleigh.

Vice-chairman Vic Leach, has written to the district council expressing his concerns about the "inevitable" loss of green belt land and urging the burden be shared equally across the district.

Keith Hudson, district councillor responsible for planning and transport, said a decision on the issue would be made in the autumn.

He said: "The procedure so far has been for a call for sites'.

"Any landowner is entitled to put forward their land for consideration as a suitable site for housing, industry or commerce."