CAMPAIGNERS fighting to stop hundreds of homes being built on a beauty spot hope a Tory MP will back them in the battle.

Stephen Metcalfe, MP for South Basildon and East Thurrock , could be the ace in the pack for protesters against plans to build as many as 850 homes across the wildlife haven at Dry Street, Basildon.

Mr Metcalfe confirmed he was “doing his homework” on the controversial proposals which have been put together by Basildon Council’s ruling Tory administration, the Homes and Communities Agency and South Essex College.

Mr Metcalfe is the second Tory heavyweight to not openly support the proposals. A week ago, John Schofield, county councillor for Westley Heights, broke Conservative ranks to join the campaign against the development.

Danny Lovey, president of the Rotary Club of Basildon Concord and a long-term Conservative himself, is also opposed to the plans and would welcome the MP’s support.

He said: “It would be very helpful if Mr Metcalfe came out in our support. I am due to have a meeting with him about this. He would be a powerful ally. I know he is in an awkward position, but would be very good for him to be on board.”

Mr Metcalfe has written to Eric Pickles, Communities Secretary, to ask how housing targets for the area have been calculated, so he can satisfy himself of the exact need for housing in the borough.

Mr Metcalfe added: “I am researching the proposals before being able to reach an informed decision. I have also asked about what protection can be given to the Essex County Council owned land to the south of Dry Street so this can be safeguarded from any development.”

A planning application is expected in October for a major housing development over the existing college site, and into the meadows at Dry Street, which would, in turn, fund a new town centre college campus in Basildon.

Malcolm Buckley , Tory councillor responsible for regeneration, said local politicians were entitled to their views in the interest of constituents.

He added if the council did not support the development, it would be forced upon it and also leave the town without a new town centre college campus.

He added: “Many of his constituents will live across the borough and would welcome the college, so whatever decision he reaches he will upset some of his constituents. “Some could miss out on the education they deserve, while others may miss out on the view they currently enjoy.”