A MAJOR new housing estate with 500 homes and its own primary school, nursery, shops and clinic could be built just outside Rayleigh.

C o u n t r y s i d e Properties has put in an outline planning application to develop on green belt land north of London Road, Rayleigh, and south of Rawreth Lane.

The move follows the approval of a controversial Rochford Council Local Plan document, outlining where nearly 4,000 homes should be built between now and 2021.

Ian Ward, councillor responsible for planning, said: “We are obliged to accomodate these dwellings and we will be ensuring the infrastructure is there to cope with the perceived problems.

“When the detailed plans come through, we will work to make sure that is the case.

“At the moment, it is just outline permission and it may be that the plan has to change a bit.”

Before putting in its application, Countryside carried out public consultations on the plans earlier in the year.

Planning officers are now likely to negotiate some changes to the proposals before a full planning application goes in, since the area covered was originally earmarked to take 550 homes.

The application includes space for parks, playing fields, allotments and youth facilities, as well as “balancing ponds” to help deal with flood risks in parts of the site which are in a flood zone.

It also sketches out two new access roads and associated infrastructure, including an extension of bus routes to serve estate residents.

Andrew Carrington, Countryside’s strategic land director, said: “Our aim is to create a sustainable scheme that fully integrates with the existing community and has a strong sense of local identity.

“We have carefully reviewed the feedback from local residents during the public consultation earlier this year, and have made a number of adjustments and additions to our masterplan, including reserving a site for a new primary school.”

'We might not like it, but we have no choice’

Like all councils, Rochford now has a legal obligation to have enough land available at any time to meet five years’ demand for housing.

Ian Ward, councillor responsible for planning, said: “We are following the law of the land, set out by Government – whether our residents or we, as councillors, feel there is a demand for housing or not.”

Mr Ward said the council had done what it could to soften the blow.

He explained: “We were approached by a developer in 2006, when our core strategy discussions were first starting, which wanted to build more than 4,000 homes – all in Hullbridge.

“We considered that extremely unfair on that area and felt it was better to spread them around.

“We also had a proposal for 1,800 homes to the west of Rayleigh, but again, that was deemed unfair.”

If the council failed to have a document setting out where the next five years of homes would be built would leave the district open to having developments imposed on it by Whitehall, regardless of how unsuitable the council or local residents might consider them.