A conservation group is preparing for war over a developer’s plans to build an access road for a new 78-home estate near to a popular beauty spot.

Bellway Homes has asked Braintree Council for permission to take over control of a strip of land at Riverview off of Maldon Road, Witham.

The developer wants to use the land, located close to Witham’s river walk, to create an access road to the vacant land to the west, commonly referred to as Gimsons, where it wants to build up to 78 homes.

Witham and Countryside Society has criticised the plans, saying it would have an adverse effect on the river walk and residents have not been given enough time to object to the plans.

John Palombi, chairman of Witham and Countryside Society, said: “Braintree Council’s intentions came to our notice on November 23.

“The objections were open until November 30. I believe it is a very limited time for people to object.”

Witham and Countryside Society say the land Braintree Council relinquishing control of is located so close to the river walk, if a road was built it would damage the natural habitat and wildlife in the area.

Mr Palombi said: “We cannot deny there is a need for houses in the area.

“But we do not want to see high density housing built so close to the river walk.

“Unless they are planning high density housing they do not need that level of access.

“Any development right up to the boundary has a significant effect on the area.”

The river walk is a popular open space and nature reserve in Witham and also acts as a well-used walking route between the town’s amenities.

Mr Palombi said Witham and Countryside Society considers it the “jewel in the crown” of the town. He said: “The river walk is very significant in the town.

“It is possibly unique to Witham to have a route run along a river from the centre of town and it is very well used.

“This section is the main path between the river, the town park and the town centre so it is very busy as well.

“We are prepared to oppose overdevelopment near the River Walk vigorously.”

Witham Town Council asked for a deferral on the decision so plans can be discussed in full – a request the council has agreed to.

Braintree Council said the proposals had been advertised in the Times’ editions of November 16 and November 23.

A spokesman said: “In terms of the walking route, the agreement will preserve access and will enable this to be continued so that residents can gain easy access from the river walk to the town centre.

“The development of the site will be subject to a detailed planning application in due course with full consideration of all issues in the usual way.”

The site is in Braintree Council’s emerging local plan for development.

A planning application is likely to be submitted by Bellway in due course.

Map of the area:

Harwich and Manningtree Standard: