A MAJOR developer has defended its plans to build a nature reserve as a compensation to wildlife loss during a £300 million project.

Hutchison Ports is looking to construct a seawall and wave breaks as well as realign the coastal flood defences south east of Foulton Hall, in Harwich Road, in Little Oakley.

This is understood to be a compensatory environmental site to support water bird populations impacted by the loss of intertidal habitats at Bathside Bay.

But the plans were met with backlash from Little Oakley residents, who started a petition and marched down the Essex Way to Irlams Beach earlier this month.

One of their biggest concerns is that the proposal will result in loss of public access to Irlams beach and the footpath which offers unspoilt views of Hamford Water and the countryside.

Harwich and Manningtree Standard: Little Oakley residents marched down the Essex Way to Irlams Beach earlier this month.Little Oakley residents marched down the Essex Way to Irlams Beach earlier this month.

A spokesman for Hutchison Ports said they are aware of residents' opinion.

They added: “We are looking to see how the site can be made into an important community asset accommodating their use of the area alongside the requirement from environmental agencies for habitat creation.

"The recently announced Freeport East has the potential to be transformative for the Tendring area and creating a wildlife habitat from what is currently agricultural land is a vital first step in securing the jobs and other economic benefits it could bring.

"We are working to make this a reality and help to levelling-up across Harwich and North Essex.”

READ MORE: >>Petition launched to save much-loved and 'well-used' footpath to beach

But the most recent assessment from Historic England showed building the habitat could also affect the heritage importance of the site.

The report read: "There is one Grade II listed building within 2km of the centre of the application site (St Mary's House) as well as seven Grade II buildings.

"We also note the potential impact in non-designated heritage assets within the redline boundary, which includes the remains of at least ten 'red hills' which are the remains of Bronze Age, Iron Age and/or Roman salt-making sites along the coastal zone."

A public meeting will be held next Monday at 7pm at Little Oakley Memorial Club, where Hutchison Ports will discuss the plans.

You can find the petition on littleoakleypc.org.uk