A CONSULTATION to try to shape the future of three new towns has been branded premature and misleading by a campaign group.

Three garden settlements have been mooted for Colchester’s borders with Braintree and Tendring, and to the west of Braintree with the local authorities teaming up with Essex County Council to form a delivery vehicle.

Development on the sites would begin with infrastructure before housing.

The councils are set to launch an issues and options consultation to get residents views on the possible development after Local Plan meetings scheduled for the coming weeks.

But the Campaign Against Urban Sprawl In Essex which is objecting to plans for the 16,858 new town at West Tey, has criticised the consultation.

Secretary Rosie Pearson said: “It is being used by councils as a mandate for the development of West Tey. The consultation is premature and should be postponed.

“It is a master planning exercise based on thin air - it is simply not possible to attempt to masterplan a new town in the vicinity of Marks Tey, given the many, and significant, unknowns.”

According to the group, unknowns include uncertainty about the route and timings of expansions to the A12 and A120, whether the emerging Local Plan will be accepted by a planning inspector and the delivery of a mass rapid transit to connect the community.

She added: “The consultants’ draft concept plan is not worth the paper it is written on.

“Consultation at this stage is a waste of time and money and is unhelpful and misleading for local residents affected directly and indirectly by the proposals.

“We urge councillors to ensure any consultation on the detailed planning of West Tey must be postponed until realistic plans are in place for delivery of the new A12, A120 and new station.”

Colchester Council leader Paul Smith (Lib Dem) said: “We are now beginning to look closely at each of the garden communities to start to define their needs and characteristics.

“This will be a lengthy process, with a number of consultations to ensure that our residents have a real say in how they are developed.

“Obviously we don’t have the answers to everything, at this stage, as issues like the improvements to the A120 and A12 are outside our control - as these become clearer they will be factored into the plans.

“There are a range of views beyond those advanced by Cause.”