A PARISH councillor has raised concerns over plans to build hundreds of homes, potentially on top of old smuggler tunnels.

Navyard Limited has applied to build 373 houses and flats, a commercial area, public space and parking in a development off King’s Quay Street in Harwich.

While some welcomed the plans, Ramsey and Parkeston parish councillor Anthony Colbourne had reservations about underground tunnels in Wellington Road, King’s Head Street, King’s Quay Street, Market Street and Church Street.

He said: “Almost all of the roads have tunnels underneath them for the then smugglers to bring contraband in from the beach.

“Some of the tunnels still collect water at certain tides.

“You can’t put heavy buildings on top of tunnels.”

He said the tunnels were used to transport goods to pubs.

He added: “There used to be 42 pubs in that town at the time and every pub had a little landing stage.

“The sailors would come in at low tide with their barrels of rum or tea and take them to the public houses.

“There are dozens of tunnels there and the minute you start building you could block the water supply.

“That water has got to go somewhere.

“Amongst some of my old town deeds I have a map of these tunnels.”

The developer said the site being used for the proposed development is all reclaimed land.

Land reclamation is the process of creating new land from oceans, seas, riverbeds or lake beds.

There is no mention of the tunnels within the plans.

The proposal submitted to Tendring Council show a new “mixed-use” quarter for Old Harwich.

The proposed development also includes a new promenade walk linking the quayside with Angelgate which would incorporate key landmarks of the historic town.

Public amenity space at the Naval House is also set to provide the opportunity for markets, festivals and passenger ship docking at the King’s Yard.

The revised plans include new public spaces such as the HMS Conqueror Plaza, encompassing a raised promenade, a split-level café, public toilets and water features.

A landmark building marking the entrance to the port with a restaurant at its base, as well as a terrace of shops, offices and community-use spaces are also set to be built along King’s Quay Street.

A total of 94 per cent of the homes will have direct access to private or semi-private outdoor amenity space. About 659 car parking spaces, s will be built.

Some businesses in the area say regeneration of the Navyard site is both an exciting and important opportunity for Harwich.

Mann Lines, which operates from the site, will be relocating if the proposal is approved by Tendring Council.

A public exhibition for the multi-million pound regeneration project was held in September at the 1912 Centre and Bunkhouse.

The Navy Dockyard was established in 1657.

The Navyard was closed in 1713 but continued to be used for shipbuilding until the early part of the nineteenth century.

The dock is still operational mainly for imported goods likes timber.