COUNTY bosses insist a new school for Rayleigh remains an option to cope with an influx of families caused by a massive housebuilding programme.

Campaigners had criticised Essex County Council for apparently calling a halt to plans for a new school, as part of Rochford District Council’s development plan, which is looking to build 2,785 homes by 2021.

Claims had been made saying education bosses had said they would prefer to use existing schools to cater for the increased population.

However, a County Hall spokesman said: “Essex County Council is working very closely with Rochford District Council to ensure the predicted rise in school places is accommodated.

“We will continue to monitor new housing and formulate a strategic plan to increase provision to meet the predicted longer termneed for additional places.

“Options will include school expansion proposals and new provision. The numbers, location and phasing of housing development in the locality will inform the strategic plan to increase school places in Rochford.”

Officials from around the district have urged County Hall to back plans for a new school.

Rayleigh town councillor Bruce Smart said: “Already the fears of many, including myself, are being justified.

“Include the Hullbridge numbers and 1,000 new homes could equate to a minimum 500 to 1,000 extra pupils of school age.

“Where will they be educated? A new school should be built on the new development. Not to do so is short sighted.”

Rochford Council said it still wants to see a new school built, but will continue consulting with the county council.

A spokeswoman said: “Our plans regarding schools within the development plan have not changed, but any final decision will be made alongside Essex County Council as it is the authority in charge of education locally.”