THE planned 17,000 homes in the new town dubbed West Tey could be built without any public cash, developers have claimed.

Landowner L&Q owns the vast majority of land north of the A12, which has been earmarked for a new garden community.

But the proposal has proved to be divisive, with proponents citing the move as the best way forward because it avoids smaller in-fill sites which do not bring infrastructure with them.

However, critics say the settlements will be soulless commuter towns and will bring little benefit to the area.

They have also pointed to other sites would could be preferable for development.

During Thursday night’s meeting, John Symington, speaking on behalf of all the developers involved in Gateway 120 consortium, told Colchester councillors: “We have carried out extensive viability testing and we are prepared to fund the whole of the development - the 17,000 homes and associated physical infrastructure - which means there is no need for public funds to be put at risk at West Tey.”

Mr Symington pointed to plans to create a link road between the A120 and A12 before homes would be built and a commitment to set aside 30 per cent of the homes as “affordable homes for local people”.

He added: “It takes substantial resources from a large, skilled developer and L&Q can provide this.”

A spokesman for the proposed West Tey Garden Community added: “We are pleased to note that Colchester Council has identified a way forward for its local plan process.

“We have always been clear the garden communities would need to demonstrate their viability and a clear plan to deliver infrastructure first.

“We can, and we will, do just that.

“We will continue to engage with the council to understand why it is suggested that West Tey would come forward later in the local plan period.

“West Tey is a deliverable and viable garden community. Moreover, it can be entirely privately funded by L&Q Group, putting no pressure on the local taxpayer.”

He also warned: “If West Tey does not come forward, the alternative is piecemeal development all over Colchester and Braintree.”

Halstead Gazette: Rosie Pearson in Great Tey, for story on West Tey Garden Community..

But campaigner Rosie Pearson, secretary of the Campaign Against Urban Sprawl in Essex (Cause), questioned the developers on their motives.

She said: “We have heard about this viability testing before and, in fact, when it was requested by the planning inspector [during the examination of the garden villages proposals] they chose not to put it forward.

“We have no idea what their definition of ‘sufficient infrastructure’ is.

“Do they mean a primary school? Does it take into account a rapid transit system? We just have no idea;”

The campaigner added: “There is no exact figure on the cost of West Tey. Beaulieu Park [near Chelmsford] is at £170 million at the moment.

“West Tey could be up to £1.8 billion. Are they going to have that available? I don’t think so.

“They’re simply not going to do it and until we see their figures, there is absolutely no evidence.”