COUNCIL leaders in Tendring have criticised Colchester councillors after they blocked plans to give £350,000 to the firm behind failed proposals for thousands of homes.

Colchester Council last week voted not to hand over the cash to North Essex Garden Communities Limited (NEGC), which was set up by Braintree, Tendring, Essex and Colchester councils to progress plans for 43,000 homes in north Essex.

Earlier this year, planning inspector Roger Clews ruled two of the new towns were unviable and should be removed from the authorities’ Local Plan, but the third, a 9,000 home development on the Colchester/Tendring border, could still go ahead.

It was decided to wind the company up and each authority was expected to pay £350,000, but Colchester Council's Conservatives, Highwoods Independents, Green councillor Mark Goacher and Lib Dem Andrea Luxford-Vaughan voted against handing over the cash.

Speaking at a meeting of Tendring Council’s cabinet on Friday, leader Neil Stock said: “The four authorities involved in the garden communities – Colchester, Braintree, Tendring and Essex – had agreed to put in £350,000 each to the funding of that company, which was doing a lot of work to facilitate our local plans being drawn up.

“This council, Braintree and Essex made formal decisions to pay that money, but Colchester has made the decision not to pay their share – that decision reflects very poorly on Colchester Council as a local authority.

“It’s very disappointing that a council of Colchester’s stature is basically saying it doesn’t feel prepared to pay its bills.

“It will reflect poorly on Colchester going forward in any kind of partnership discussions and dealings because you need that basic element of trust between partners and that has bene broken by that decision.

“What they’re saying is that they expect Tendring – a district with its own challenges – to pick up their bills.

“We’re not going to be doing that – or take a decision like that laying down.”

“Disappointed is the only word you can use without being rude, quite frankly,” he added.

“Any work we now do with Colchester will have to have agreements signed up and sworn in blood before we proceed with it and the money will have to be in the bank if there’s any financial contracts entered into."

He added that the project was due to be match funded by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and the Government would “not be impressed” by Colchester’s decision.

Deputy leader Carlo Guglielmi said that in the future, Tendring Council would take the lead on work and consultations over development on the border.

He said: “I feel quite hurt by the decision that Colchester took. They have failed in their obligation as a partner.

“It’s a shame as it has been several years of work wiped out by a reckless decision.

“The inspector found the garden community between Colchester and Tendring to be a sound solution and I’m shocked by the decision made by Colchester not to pay the last share of what they owed to the company.

“We will scrutinise Colchester quite closely from now on or the whole thing to get houses delivered will unravel.”

Opposition councillor Mark Stevenson said the Colchester councillors’ stance that they had paid in kind through the work of officers was “outrageous” when Tendring had not done the same.

He added that the move brought into question Colchester’s commitment to the future garden community scheme.

Mr Stock will now formally write to Colchester Colchester to express his concerns with regard to future working arrangements and seeking clarity around "remedying their equal share" of the project's responsibilities.