A GARDEN centre will be demolished and 16 homes built in its place.

Plans have been approved to close Fairways Garden Centre in Hullbridge Road, Rayleigh, and build higher-priced homes.

Rochford Council refused the plans in May 2017, but the Planning Inspectorate has overturned the decision.

The Planning Inspectorate stated that affordable housing was not appropriate, which means that the usual Rochford Council policy of 35per cent of the homes being affordable did not apply.

James Newport, Lib Dem councillor for Rayleigh, was dismayed at the decision. He said: “The loss of employment at those units as not good at all.

“It’s not great news for anyone. It is disappointing.

“We already have a lack of employment in that area is it is.”

He added: “We need council housing. We have none at all at the moment. It’s all private.

“We have no say in the quality of housing at all.”

Richard Lambourne, a member of the Rayleigh Residents’ Association, added: “Rayleigh and Hullbridge seem to be very popular with developers at the moment.

“You can’t drive down there at the moment because of the traffic anyway.

“There needs to be more affordable and social housing.

“It should have been flats not houses there.

“If the developer knows they can get away with it, they’ll go past the council. Central government doesn’t care.”

The estate will be accessed via a new roadway from Hullbridge Road and each home will be given its own private parking space, as well as a back garden or yard.

Nobody at the garden centre was available for comment.