CONCERNED residents fear plans for an eco hub costing between £12 million and £15 million will destroy a precious green gap.

Naturalis Energy Developments wants the 54 acre site, off Halstead Road, between Kirby Cross and Kirby-le-Soken, to be used as part of a new electric vehicle charging station, battery storage facility and solar farm.

The company said the villages could be one of the first in the UK to benefit from a new eco-hub before the sale of new petrol and diesel cars are banned in 2030.

A report said: “The project will be designed to rapid charge at least 12 electric cars at the same time, no matter the make or model.

“Moreover, Kirby will be doing its bit for the nation through the production of clean electricity that will feed into the National Grid and help reduce the impact of climate change.”

“The project will create local jobs during construction and during operation.”

The electric vehicle charging station would be constructed on a smaller parcel of land west of Halstead Road, close to Kirby Playing Fields.

It would include a small café and shop and seating lounge, as well as parking spaces for up to 30 vehicles.

The solar farm would be located on a larger site to the east of Halstead Road, along with six battery storage containers.

The report added: “Massive housebuilding in the Kirby area could eventually lead to the merging of the communities.

“The location of this eco-hub would preserve the green gap.”

“It would prevent new homes from being built on 40 to 50 acres of this sought-after development land during its 40-year life, ensuring Kirby-le-Soken and Kirby Cross remain separate villages with separate identities.”

But David Evans, of Cortoncroft Close, said: “The proposal to turn the green gap into a solar farm clearly turns the green gap into a black gap.

“The associated security fences bordering this development will completely change the character of this area from countryside into what will become more like visiting a high security prison.”

Ben Milleare, of Halstead Road, added: “This is yet another attempt to erode the green gap.

“The proposal for multiple containers, a large canopy, high fencing, a switching station and, no doubt, permanent lighting will be an absolute eyesore to local residents.”

The firm is currently undertaking a consultation on the scheme ahead of a planning application being submitted to Tendring Council in December.