THERE are fears Halstead could be swamped by thousands more new homes after a controversial bid to build three new towns in north Essex were left in tatters.

Ambitious plans for 43,000 homes in three new ‘garden communities’ have been ruled “unsound” by a planning inspector.

Roger Clews completely ruled out building 10,000 homes to the west of Braintree, as well as another new town at Marks Tey with 24,000 homes.

A third garden community – a 9,000-home development east of Colchester – could still go ahead.

The plans were a joint bid by Braintree, Colchester and Tendring councils to provide a housing blueprint for the coming decades.

There are now fears thousands of new homes could be built in the Halstead area instead.

Halstead councillor Jackie Pell, of Halstead Residents’ Association, said it was a “nightmare” scenario.

She said: “This has serious implications and it is really upsetting.

“You can be sure, now this has fallen though, they are going to be looking our way to get houses built.

“It is absolutely our worst nightmare. We need more facts at the moment, but this could mean thousands of houses coming to Halstead.

“This is really bad news for Halstead and the surrounding villages. What we already had coming was bad enough already.

“The inspector was wrong. The best thing about the garden communities plan was that the infrastructure would have come first.

“Now they’re probably going to be building houses to meet their targets but where will the infrastructure go?

“We’ve heard in public meetings and such that if garden communities fell through it would likely be coming over our way.”

Halstead mayor Mick Radley said: “We have been advised that the inspector has rejected the Braintree Council strategy to build Garden Communities in the district, but at the same time has confirmed that 716 dwellings per year must still be built to meet the housing needs.

“This unfortunately means that the houses will still need to be built somewhere and it’s now likely that much of the burden may fall upon the three main towns of Halstead, Braintree and Witham.

“Halstead has already seen a disproportionately high and unprecedented growth in recent years and the inspector’s decision means that further significant growth is now likely to continue long into the future.

“This is a really big concern for the residents of the town because the current infrastructure is so stretched.

“There are constraints for school places and doctors’ appointments, and every day traffic through the town is already creating long queues and jams – a further increase is unsustainable.

“Without addressing these areas, further housing growth will not be sustainable.

“It will also threaten the rural nature of town and adjoining beautiful countryside if more and more greenfield sites are taken up by housing.

“We call upon Braintree Council to think carefully in the next stages of the Local Plan to ensure that the impact upon Halstead is sustainable and manageable.”

Rosie Pearson, of the Campaign Against Urban Sprawl in Essex, which opposed the garden communities, said “heads must roll” after the project was rejected.

But Mrs Pell defended the plan. She said: “The majority of people were behind this and we had to try.

“I honestly believe that garden communities were the best way forward for us.

“The infrastructure would have come first to help cope with the number of new residents, but now we’re stuffed.”