RESIDENTS fear a new sports area will turn a peaceful nature reserve into a concrete jungle.

More than 160 people have signed a petition against a new skate park and multi-use games area between New Barge Pier Road and Gunners Rise, in Shoebury Garrison.

Planning officers have recommended Southend Council allow developer Country and Metropolitan to build the facility, which was a condition of its permission to build the 460-home Garrison estate.

But residents fear the facility, which will include a hard surface with markings for tennis, basketball and football, will attract yobs and vandals near the Shoebury Old Ranges nature reserve.

Mike Riley, 68, of Gunners Rise, said: “It will attract gangs of youths. Why create a nature park and then wreck it with this concrete jungle?

“That’s what’s going to happen, it happens everywhere else.”

The council agreed other community facilities, including a toddlers’ playground and a heritage centre, in March, but councillors will reconsider the sports area after concerns were raised about its impact on nearby wildlife.

The developer has moved the facility so it is mostly on existing hard standing and planners accept a new ecological report shows no major problems.

But now residents fear the area will cause noise, graffiti and antisocial behaviour in a quiet area.

Mr Riley, who disturbed a youth climbing on his second floor balcony a few weeks ago and whose neighbour suffered a similar incident, believes the games area should be sited closer to Hinguar Primary School, where it would be more accessible to the emergency services.

He said: “The primary objection from our point of view is the noise will be horrendous.

“People who use those kind of parks are not quiet, and understandably so.

“We have canvassed various people walking in the park. They aren’t teenagers, they are elderly folk or folk with young children, enjoying the park for what it was designed for.

“Why build a lake and then destroy the atmospheric vista of the area by building a multi-use games area that will be covered with graffiti?”

A Country and Metropolitan Homes spokesperson said: “The recreational area has been designed to be a safe and fun haven for local children to play in. This will include a new facility for wheeled sports, such as skate boarding or BMX.

“We will work closely with Southend Council to minimise any issues for residents, should they arise.”

Councillors will discuss the application in public at the Civic Centre from 2pm today.