MORE than 100 angry residents packed a Benfleet community hall to protest against plans for thousands of new homes in their neighbourhood.

Richmond Hall, in Richmond Avenue, was packed with people eager to make their views known on Castle Point Council’s plans to allow 4,000 new homes to be built in the borough by 2031.

The amount of furious neighbours took the council by surprise as the meeting was intended to be a regular council surgery, but campaigners rallied together to make their voices heard.

One 56-year-old man said: “What you are saying about needing homes for our youngsters is poppycock.

“There are lots of homes up for sale at the moment.”

There were fears the road network would buckle under the pressure of extra cars and councillors faced a backlash as the meeting became more heated. 

People also criticised the council for not giving enough consideration to developing the Blinking Owl site, or pursuing businessman Ray Dove’s proposal to move Manor Trading estate on to the Blinking Owl site and build new homes on the industrial estate.

Instead the council has earmarked it for potential development after 2031.

Robert Baillie, 64, of St Mary’s Close, Benfleet, added: “This is just being railroaded through.

“I do not feel these councillors are listening to us at all.”

Jacqui Thornton, 51, of Catherine Road, Benfleet, said: “What brown field sites did they look at before including green belt sites?”

Jeffrey Stanley, deputy leader of the council, said: “What we have seen is that clearly people are very strongly opposed to the number of houses but no one was able to come up with a solution of where else to put them.

“As councillors we have a lot of information given to us and what surprised me was not the lack of information but that people were lacking bits of knowledge. We have got to make certain that the information that goes out in our consultation is sufficient enough for people to come to a rational decision on what’s being proposed.

“We will listen to developers as well who will come forward so long as their plans are watertight.

“All the evidence suggests the Blinking Owl site is not a realistic site capable of being developed in the planning period. We have reserved it for the long term to give land owners the chance to discuss this.”

Castle Point’s Local Plan is out for eight-week public consultation, which runs until March 21.

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