HUNDREDS of acres of green belt land in Basildon are under threat from the Government’s decision to relax planning rules.

Basildon Council is in the process of deciding where homes can be built in the next 20 years.

Chancellor George Osborne has announced the Goverment will relax planning laws to speed up development and boost the country's economic growth.

Under the new rules green belt, can be built on if an equivalent-sized unprotected area of land is safeguarded from building.

Tories running Basildon Council will next month unveil new house building plans for the next two decades, which are expected to top the 10,000 mark.

Malcolm Buckley , councillor responsible for regeneration, hopes the changes may benefit the borough and speed up the development of sites.

He said: “I am in favour of speeding up the planning process in general and getting rid of some of the red tape.

“My biggest concern is if we are flooded with inappropriate developments in the green belt.

“It may be the case we have to allocate some green belt for development, but it will be at our choosing, not developers’.”

Mr Buckley said he did not want to see the changes as a charter for building firms that have bought green belt land.

Vulnerable green belt sites in Basildon include:

* Little Chalvedon Hall – 127 acres of farmland owned by Nottinghamshire County Council which has begun a public consultation on plans for 1,300 homes

* Land east of Pound Lane – 291 acres owned by various landowners. Developer Colon-nade floated plans for up to 2,275 homes by 2016/17

* Great Cowbridge Grange Farm, off London Road, Billericay – Developer Redrow Homes has an option on 71 acres of farmland The council says 650 homes could be built

* Outwood Common Road, Billericay – 68 acres owned by Frederick Gordon and Company Limited suitable for up to 650 homes according to Basildon Council.

* More than 290 acres of green belt owned by the Philpott family near, but not including the Barleylands Farm complex, were put forward to the council green belt review by property consultants Bidwells.