THE owners of a golf club have won a lengthy battle to build retirement homes on green belt land to fund a specialist golf school for children.

A Government inspector went against Basildon Council and gave the go-ahead for barns, stables and sheds at Noak Hill Golf Course, Billericay, to be demolished to make way for three bungalows.

The two-bedroom homes will form an independent, gated, retirement community.

Council officers refused a string of applications for the site over the past five years due to its green belt location, forcing owners Terence and Linda McDowell to lodge an appeal.

Kevin Blake, councillor responsible for for leisure and arts, and Burstead ward councillor, condemned the planning inspectorate for allowing the scheme to go ahead.

He said: “This is not what green belt land is there for. We have been protecting green belt land for years and now we are being told we are going to have to start building on some of it, but we need to be very selective about that.

“If I had my way we wouldn’t build on any.

“I hope the owners make the best of it and I hope the business is a success. It’s great to have a thriving business and if they are going to be helping young people we have got to make a good thing out of a bad situation.”

Mr and Mrs McDowell plan to use the money from the sale of the bungalows to fund a golf school for youngsters, which would be used by schools during term time and host activity sessions during school holidays.

They also want to build new changing rooms and toilets, improve parking facilities and upgrade the course.

Larger scale plans for the site were first submitted to Basildon Council in 2009, but the 17 homes were turned down due to green belt concerns.

Planning inspector Chris Tivey passed the appeal because part of the site had already been built on to make way for the golf club.

He said: “I have found the proposal not to be inappropriate development.

“There would be no harm to the character and appearance of the area.”