PLANS to recontour Basildon Golf Course with up to 500,000 tonnes of building spoil were branded a “planning scam” at the Court of Appeal.

Campaign group Friends of Basildon Golf Course is challenging Basildon Council’s decision to grant planning permission to Jack Barker Group to use 140,000 tonnes of soil and rubble in the first phase of redevelopment of the course off Clayhill Road.

Further phases could see thousands more tonnes of spoil dumped on the site.

A two-day hearing at the Court of Appeal in London began yesterday, presided over by Lords Justices Pill, Carnwath and Rimer. Charles George QC, representing the Friends said the application from Jack Barker was one of a number of applications to allow dumping of rubble on golf courses across the country made between 2005 and 2007.

However, he said critics believed it was a planning scam to make money by receiving payments from building firms for more spoil than was actually needed to redevelop the course.

He said: “The key matter is this local authority never asked Jack Barker whether it was necessary to have this amount of waste in order to create an improved golf course and whether Jack Barker was in it simply for the money coming from the waste.”

The first phase involves a £1million revamp, including a new clubhouse, maintenance shed, golf driving range and landscaping of the course.

The work would be funded by payments for the dumping.

The court heard Jack Barker began work on the redevelopment on Tuesday – as revealed in yesterday’s Echo – just days ahead of an October 15 deadline for the expiry of the planning permission. He added: “As I speak, they are scraping part of the site.”

He said Government body Natural England was “protesting mightily” as a result of the developer’s alleged failure to carry out necessary surveys of the site. Mr George also argued it was irrational of Clive Simpson, council head of planning, to decide that an environmental impact assessment of the work was not needed before planning permission was granted.

The appeal also centres around claims the council failed to consult Essex County Council on waste management issues.

Mr George accused High Court judge Mr Justice Wyn Williams of failing to take into account an ecological report submitted with the planning application when he ruled in favour of the council at an earlier hearing in January 2009. The case continues.