PLANS to build a new housing estate on the former Runwell Hospital site could get under way in the summer after more than 20 years of speculation.

Countryside Properties is holding a public exhibition today on proposals to build 575 homes on the site off Runwell Road, after submitting a planning application to Chelmsford City Council.

The development, which will take place in six phases, was agreed in principle by the authority in March 2013, but still needs detailed planning permission for each wave of housing.

Despite this, the company claims the first stage of the new estate could get under way in just a few months time and is holding a consultation this afternoon.

Campaigners in Wickford are urging residents to turn out in their droves and make their views heard on the proposals.

They claim it will have a major impact on the town which is already in line for 2,800 homes before 2031.

David Harrison, of the Wickford Action Group, said: “This is going to have a major affect on Wickford. It’s literally just down the road from the town and we’re just going to have so much extra pressure on the roads and infrastructure.

“People must remember this is in addition to the 2,800 homes Wickford is getting in Basildon’s local plan. It is so important residents go along, view the plans and share their views.”

Plans to develop the site have been in the pipeline since 1992, and could include a primary school, shops and a restaurant.

Phase one, which will start this summer, will see the construction of a new road linking the old hospital site to the A132 Runwell Road and a new link road to Runwell Chase.

The second phase will involve building the first wave of 116 homes in spring 2015.

The exhibition will take place from 2pm to 7pm today at Runwell Sports and Social Club, in Runwell Chase.