CAMPAIGNERS have started a petition against controversial plans to build dozens of homes on green belt land.

Redrow Homes has submitted plans for 178 homes on 21-acres of land off Felstead Road, Catherine Road, Downer Road, Rhoda Road and Bowers Road, in Benfleet.

However, more than 600 people have signed up to the Friends of Bowers Road campaign group’s Facebook page in opposition to the plans.

About 70 residents have also issued written objections to the plans since they were submitted to Castle Point Council in November.

The proposed development, being dubbed King John’s Wood, would also include a village green, a “pocket park”, three small public open spaces, a wildlife pond and the reopening of a private woodland to the public.

The site has already been earmarked for development as part of the council’s five-year housing strategy.

Campaigners, who started the online petition against the development going ahead, claim it will lead to congestion on surrounding roads and be detrimental to wildlife in the area. Richard Simpson, of Downer Road, whose daughter, Alice Burrell, started the petition, said: “The infrastructure just will not cope with that amount of homes. The roads are already struggling as it is. I was shocked when I saw it was that many homes.

“My daughter started the petition because we she has grown up in this area, and while we know the borough needs new homes, everyone you speak to doesn’t think this site is suitable.

“It’s not just that, there are so many badgers and other wildlife around here.

“The BBC even came down to film here. If we do not try to stop this now, we will never get this land back.”

The application will be coming before Castle Point Council’s planning committee in the next fewmonths.

To view the petition, visit citizens-of-castle-point