A FURTHER £350,000 of taxpayers’ cash could be used to move forward a controversial plan for three new towns.

The money will be Colchester’s contribution to a £2m budget for 2019/20.

It means by next year the scheme will have used around £7.6m in taxpayer funding in total.

But Colchester Council said the money is needed to keep the North Essex Garden Communities (NEGC) team running until March 2020.

NEGC is the company set up by Braintree, Tendring, Essex and Colchester Councils to help progress with the plans for 43,000 homes in north Essex.

David King, Colchester councillor responsible for business and resources, said: “The extra funding supports the work of the NEGC to March 2020, the period of the Planning Inspector’s review and likely decision on garden communities.

“That might include further requests for support, information or clarification. Even if not, the councils will need to pick up on his decisions and to be joined up.

“Garden communities will be a step-change away from speculative development, towards new communities with the homes, facilities, open spaces and quality of life that residents deserve.

“Disbanding the joint team set up by the four councils to deliver these goals makes no sense.

“It would not be good value for money or best project management.

“Our council teams shouldn’t be disbanded just to be recreated.

“They are needed for garden communities and for any large-scale future developments across north Essex.

“Breaking them up serves only to help the speculative developers, who want to maximise their opportunities and profit at the expense of the rest of us.”

The Campaign Against Urban Sprawl in Essex said it was be “ploughing money into an unaccountable quango”.

A spokesman said: “CAUSE has already raised concerns about the work submitted by the authorities to the inspector, which shows the garden communities are still not viable.

“The modelling is so flawed it cannot be relied on.

“After three and half years and £7.6m, NEGC Ltd still has no land, no sound plan and no deliverable or viable way to build its new towns.”