A FIRM set up to oversee plans for 43,000 homes across three new towns in north and mid Essex is set to be wound up after spending millions of pounds of taxpayer cash.

Colchester, Braintree and Tendring and Essex County councils formed North Essex Garden Community Limited (NEGC) in 2017 to oversee development plans for 43,000 homes.

However, in May, planning inspector Roger Clews told the authorities two of the new towns, at West Tey and West of Braintree, were unviable and should be removed from the Local Plan.

He said the third, a 9,000 home development east of Colchester, could still go ahead.

Following the inspector's decision the councils will discuss winding up NEGC, which could stop trading by the end of August.

Each of the councils will discuss the recommendation at meetings over the next few weeks.

Rosie Pearson, of the Better Planning Campaign, said the decision was amazing news for residents after a hard-fought campaign against the unpopular new town plans.

She said: "NEGC symbolised all which was wrong with the new towns project. It was unaccountable to residents and wasted nearly £8 million of taxpayer funds - all in pursuit of an unpopular vanity project.

"The evidence NEGC submitted to the inspector was found wanting and the PR exercise last autumn was premature, shambolic and poorly attended. This is not a day too soon."

She called for a full investigation into how NEGC spent cash and said councillors involved on the board should resign. Lewis Barber, deputy leader of Colchester Conservatives, added: "I have for so long campaigned and voted against this awful local government monolith.

"It spent millions of taxpayer money to develop flawed plans for thousands of unaffordable homes in open countryside with little to no sensible proposals for infrastructure or services or with any form of meaningful community involvement."

If the recommendation is unanimously agreed, the councils will look at ways different of delivering the Tendring/Colchester border new town as well collaborative work on housing and economic strategies.

Leader of Colchester Council Mark Cory said: "The Inspector has focused on progressing just one Garden Community on the eastern side of Colchester.

“He has also regularly praised the very positive work carried out by the joint partnership between our four different Councils in North Essex. "We remained committed to working together across the four councils, however moving forward, we feel NEGC has served its purpose and we now need a different way ahead.

“How we take this work forward in the future will depend on the outcomes of discussions in our respective Local Plan committees.”

The councils say NEGC secured £3.76 million in grant funding from the Government and helped secure Housing Infrastructure Bids, such as £99 million for a new A120/A133 link road and rapid transit system.

Essex County Councillor John Spence, Chairman of NEGC, said: “NEGC has served its purpose and now, in terms of the future, we will move on from this vehicle to a different model which will deliver the Garden Community in Colchester and Tendring.

“NEGC was more than just a means for delivering the strategic garden community project; it played a key role in encouraging inward investment to the North Essex area, highlighting the exciting potential which the location has to offer new businesses, helping to ensure that the local economy is on the map and can grow in the future.

“As well as supporting the three councils through the planning process, NEGC Ltd has successfully engaged people across North Essex in a conversation about how and where development should take place in the future. This knowledge will be invaluable in informing future decision making on housing and infrastructure in the area.

“Finally, I want to pay tribute to the four shareholder councils who created a partnership recognised by Government as one of the most effective in the country; and to our MD Richard Bayley and his team, whose work will benefit the communities of Essex over the coming years and decades.”

Discussions will take place at:

• Colchester Borough Council’s cabinet meeting, on Wednesday 8 July

• Braintree District Council’s cabinet meeting, on Monday 13 July

• Tendring District Council’s cabinet meeting, on Friday 24 July

• Essex County Council, at a forthcoming Cabinet meeting