A FORMER animal park could be turned into retirement homes with an area gifted to the community as public space.

It is thought discussions are ongoing between the owners of Mistley Place Park and McCarthy and Stone developers about the recently closed site.

No plans have been put forward but it is believed the idea is to build up to 50 retirement homes and give up to 14 acres to the village.

In a statement Mistley Parish Council said: “The parish council understands the owners of Mistley Place Park are in discussion with McCarthy and Stone developers in connection with the future of the Mistley Place Park site.

“The owners plan to retire and are in dialogue with the developers who are prominent national developers of retirement properties.

“It is understood that the discussions with the owners and developers relate to the area at the far end of the site, which would not impede any views on the landscape.

“There have also been preliminary discussions about the owners of Mistley Place Park possibly gifting some of the land to Mistley Parish Council, as a community asset for the benefit of local residents.”

The council added if firm plans are announced an extraordinary public parish council meeting would be held and residents would be invited to attend and voice their views.

But residents have already criticised the idea of housing on the land, which is in a conservation area and close to the new area set to be classed as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Debbie Burrows, of Oxford Road, Manningtree, said: “We fought three years ago to stop any buildings going in there.

“It’s the last open space left from the Rigby estate and looks out on the River Stour.

“The owners have a historic and cultural responsibility to preserve that piece of open space.

“It doesn’t have to be built on - plenty of people are interested in buying to preserve but the price is unrealistic.”

The prospect of developing comes after previous plans in 2015, from Montague Asset Management, to build 78 homes on and create a community park.

An application was withdrawn in 2017 after a backlash from the community.

Andy Baker, from Lawford, said: “Personally I was against the development put forward before and haven’t changed my mind about anything.

“It’s in the middle of a conservation area.”

Former Mistley Parish Council chairman Martin Rayner said if land was gifted to the community it would prevent any further development there.

He said: “I believe it would be a lot fewer housing than before and less intrusive.”

The Standard contacted Mistley Place Park and McCarthy and Stone for comment.