CONTROVERSIAL new housing estates have topped a poll of residents’ concerns about Halstead – sparking calls for people to have more control over the town’s future.

The online opinion poll was carried out by town councillor Peter Caulfield to gauge the strength of feeling about issues in the town.

Almost 900 people took part in the survey.

Just under 350 residents said overdevelopment in Halstead was their biggest issue.

Hundreds of new homes have already been built in the town.

More are in the process of being constructed and hundreds are still in the pipeline as developers continue to push for planning permission for new estates in Halstead town centre and on the outskirts.

Crime levels and antisocial behaviour received the second highest number of votes.

The lack of a permanent police presence, overstretched health and education services, no by-pass and empty shops made up the remaining four options in the poll.

Mr Caulfield said: “Unsurprisingly overdevelopment came out on top, and the results are pretty much as we expected.

“I believe a lot of these issues would be solved if the issue of overdevelopment was solved as it could potentially have a knock-on effect.”

Residents could be handed more control over the future of Halstead after town councillors agreed to discuss the possibility of putting together a blueprint called a Neighbourhood Plan.

It would set out where housing developments can be built which would have to be taken into account when planning applications are being decided.

Similar blueprints are being drawn up in neighbouring villages, which are also under increased pressure from new housing developments.

County councillor Jo Beavis said: “This would help empower local residents and the local community.

“This is about local people and the town council shaping local planning policy in line with an adopted Local Plan.”

Town council chairman Andy Munday welcomed the suggestion and confirmed they would discuss the proposals, although he said he recognised it would be a major project.