CONTENTIOUS plans to build 70 homes on the edge of Halstead would help to “soften” the border between the town and countryside, experts have claimed.

Braintree Council’s planning committee will rule on Famco Estates’ planning application for land off Oak Road at a meeting next week.

The developer was originally seeking to build 50 homes on the site, which is just metres away from another large-scale development which will see 283 homes built by David Wilson Homes and Bloor Homes.

But an extra 20 homes were controversially added to the proposals in August after the council’s planning officers claimed the “density proposed was not sufficient” and the land could be used more efficiently.

Officers have recommended outline planning permission be granted, despite accepting it would result in the loss of a greenfield site and countryside.

They say the existing boundary edge on nearby Conies Road is a “harsh” border between the town and rural landscape and Famco’s plans would help to soften this.

A report by officers adds:

“It is noted that local residents attach value to the land as it has been used for informal recreation and there are well worn tracks around the perimeter of the field, primarily from dog walkers.

“However this is private land and the public have no rights of access over the land.

“The proposed development includes the provision of public open space and could be designed so as to offer alternative opportunities for residents to walk over.”

Halstead Town Council has objected to the application claiming the town’s infrastructure is already “overloaded” and that narrow roads around the site are “unsuitable” for more traffic.

A total of 37 objections have been sent to the council by residents.

The meeting is at 7.15pm on Tuesday at Causeway House in Bocking End.