PLANS to build 265 homes on green belt land in Benfleet have been thrown out, after a three year appeal battle.

Persimmon Homes had been aiming to build the homes on land off Jotmans Lane, Benfleet, which was initially refused outline planning permission by Castle Point Council’s planning committee in 2013.

A lengthy legal battle followed, as the developer took the case to the government in a bid to overturn the decision and prompted a four-day hearing in September 2015.

Following more than 18 months of deliberating, the secretary estate has ruled in the favour of Castle Point Council, despite a government planning inspector recommending the appeal be approved.

In a report published on Friday, the Secretary of State wrote: “I disagree with the Inspector’s recommendation and have decided to dismiss the appeal and refuse planning permission.

“The proposal would represent inappropriate development in the Green Belt, would harmfully and permanently reduce openness and would conflict with the purposes of the Green Belt.

Andrew Sheldon, Tory councillor for Benfleet, says he is delighted that years of hard work has proved to be the winner.

He said: “I think this was always going to be the test for developers, what this has proved is the government is committed to protecting green belt.

“Residents, councillors and our MP have been fighting to defend Jotmans for years, and this has seen a victory for common sense and democracy. “ Mr Sheldon also rounded on opposition councillors who he says showed little faith in the chances of defending the appeal.

Sue Buhr, from The Save Jotmans Farm campaign group, says she is delighted that the appeal has been quashed but warned that the developer could still return with a High Court appeal.

She said: “We are over the moon, and we have been fighting for years to fend this off.

“I would like to thank everyone for their hard work, particularly our MP who fought alongside us from day one. Some might have left us to it after the planning Rebecca Harris, Tory MP for Castle Point, said in a social media post following the decision: “Just heard the brilliant news that the Secretary of State has decided to dismiss the appeal and refuse planning permission at Jotmans.

“So glad to hear that our local Green Belt is being protected.”