A SPECIAL meeting is being held to find a way around delays to a planned relief road – described as crucial to enable some facilities to stay in the district.

Without it, there are concerns health services may move away – leading to round trips of six hours for people relying on bus services in remote parts of the Dengie.

Essex County Council has also acknowledged the relief road’s importance in reducing the strain on the road network from the development of more than 2,000 homes at north Heybridge and 1,000 in south Maldon.

The council has said the Knowles Farm scheme – one of three separate plans making up the Maldon South Garden development scheme – creates significant benefits for the wider community by bringing forward the new relief road to accommodate planned growth.

But the South Maldon Relief Road requires both funding and land, and neither is available.

The funding is linked to the number of dwellings on the site, which means the full amount will not be available until after development begins.

The land will only become available once planning permission is obtained, and at this time only outline permission has been secured on the application for 320 homes.

It has led to concerns that health services may move away from Maldon if St Peter's Hospital closes.

Maldon and Burnham Standard: Site - St Peter's Hospital in MaldonSite - St Peter's Hospital in Maldon (Image: Newsquest)

Mid and South Essex NHS have said they would like to keep some outpatient services in the town such as X-rays, blood tests, diagnostics and physiotherapy.

But county councillor Wendy Stamp, who represents the Dengie, told the full council the relief road was crucial to enable facilities to stay in the district.

She said people living in the Dengie face bus journeys of three hours each way if the facilities move outside the district.

She said: “I represent the Dengie. I have done a great deal of work on bus times. If this facility goes and people have to travel outside the district it can take some people three or four hours each way to get various hospital appointments.”

County council leader Kevin Bentley said: “It is absolutely my intention to call what I’m calling a Maldon Summit on this.

“I absolutely understand the critical issue here and I absolutely understand the concerns of residents in the Maldon area.”

Maldon and Burnham Standard: Leader - Kevin Bentley has said the council recognises the importance of the South Maldon Relief Road project to the districtLeader - Kevin Bentley has said the council recognises the importance of the South Maldon Relief Road project to the district (Image: Public)

A plan for up to 320 new homes in Maldon on land west of Knowles Farm is one of three strategic allocations making up the South Maldon Garden Suburb.

Another site received outline permission for 1,000 homes, employment uses, primary school, sports facilities and open space in 2016.

The third was granted outline consent for up to 120 dwellings in 2014.

Mr Bentley added: “We absolutely recognise the importance of the South Maldon Relief Road project to the district.

"It is a hugely important piece of infrastructure which is much needed to keep pace with the growth of this part of Essex.

“As such, I am organising an urgent meeting, involving the local MP, Essex County Council officers and other organisations, to try and unlock a way forward for the project.”