Go-ahead for 1,000 new homes on controversial site

Middlewick Ranges in south-east Colchester will be used for housing

Middlewick Ranges in south-east Colchester will be used for housing - Credit: Google Streetview

Controversial proposals to allocate 1,000 houses on a rare wildlife habitat have been approved after a major planning blueprint passed its final hurdle. 

The plan, which sets out where 15,970 homes are intended to be built, includes the allocation of 1,000 homes in Middlewick Ranges, a rare piece of acid grassland currently owned by the Ministry of Defence and previously used as a live firing range.

Colchester Borough Council voted to formally adopt section two of its local plan at a special meeting last night (July 4) with councillors warned that withdrawing the plan would “wreak chaos”, risking higher housing targets and millions of pounds spent fighting speculative developments and appeals.

It was also suggested adopting the plan could afford the Ranges some protection, with 60% of the site set to be retained as open space, possibly as a country park, through a master planning stage.

But the move has angered residents, many of whom use the site for recreational purposes such as exercising or dog walking, and who fear a valuable ecological habitat could be lost if houses are built there.

Many turned up to the meeting to speak against the plan, and several cross-party councillors also spoke against the plans.

Councillor Sue Lissimore said: “For the memories I have of playing with my children, for my mother-in-law who grew up playing on it, for older generations who grew up with this site, I cannot vote for a plan that includes the wick.”

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Councillor Mark Goatcher said: “We’ve heard a lot tonight about the ecological importance of Middlewick Ranges and I cannot support a local plan that has such a wildlife site at the heart of it.”

Those speaking in favour told the meeting that Middlewick Ranges is just one site in the plan and that the entire borough is at risk of development if the plan was not adopted.

Councillor Dennis Willetts said: “This evening I would suggest we have a very simple choice before us. It’s either approve the local plan or wreak chaos onto this borough.”

Now the plan has been adopted, the council will be able to reject planning applications for Middlewick Ranges which do not meet a series of conditions that it sets out, including providing a detailed masterplan.