CAMPAIGNERS have urged council bosses to halt a consultation forming plans for new towns.

Revised proposals to build three garden communities will go before a planning inspector next autumn.

Proposals to build the 43,000 homes were formed by a partnership between Braintree, Colchester and Tendring councils.

They have now been allowed by inspector Roger Clews to start a consultation on amendments to the sustainability appraisal.

The councils had to begin more work on the plans earlier this year after Mr Clews asked for more evidence.

At a meeting of the local plan committee, Karen Syrett, planning and housing manager at Colchester Council, confirmed the inspector had halted the examination until the autumn. She added the latest letter allowed the consultation on the sustainability appraisal to begin and would run until February 1.

Statutory bodies will be asked to make written responses to the changes.

But Tom Foster described the councils as “sneaking out” the consultation. He said: “It lays out the decision making process which the councils hope will support the garden communities.

“It is a set of tramlines designed to lead to an inevitable result. Once it is agreed, it can’t be changed.

“Local plan committee members should be up in arms about this. You should have had the opportunity to debate it properly before it went out.

“You should stop the consultation now, if you don’t, the whole plan will be kicked out and Colchester will be at the mercy of uncontrolled, speculative development.”

But Ms Syrett said: “I hardly think the sustainability appraisal was sneaked out. I think there has been a lot of discussion about the appraisal both at committee and in various emails and other correspondence. So everyone knew it was going to happen.

“We are working entirely in accordance with the correspondence we have had the inspector and the agreed approach.

“There will be no withdrawing of the sustainability appraisal.”