The council has approved controversial plans for a new hospice and 50 homes near Horndon-on-the- Hill.

St Luke’s Hospice and developers Countryside put in the application to build a six-bed hospice on green belt land at Malgraves Farm, off Lower Dunton Road, with 50 houses.

The atmosphere at tonight’s planning meeting was heated, with the public gallery packed out, and some members of the public having to wait outside.

A big cheer, with whoops and applause went up when the council voted in favour of the decision.

After the meeting, Marilyn De Battista, speaking for St Lukes, said: “We are absolutely delighted and the right result has prevailed for Thurrock.”

Claire Beecham of the Protect Lower Dunton Road Action Group said she would be going back to her group to consider next steps.

She said: “It’s very sad that they didn’t listen to the arguments. At the end of the day, it’s going to be about having a residence for the community at the expense of the greenbelt.”

The six-bed hospice will act as an extension to the existing St Luke’s Hospice building in Nethermayne, Basildon.

It will allow St Luke’s to expand its provision of specialist care for people affected by advanced life threatening illnesses, as well as allowing it to re-locate its support services, education and administration into purpose built accommodation.

Objections raised by councillors and concerned residents during the meeting included the remote location, the spoiling of the greenbelt, and the cost to the council of having to ferry schoolchildren in taxis.

Claire Beechman of the Protect Lower Dunton Road Action Group, spoke out against approving the hospice and housing.

She pleaded with councillors not to be ‘hoodwinked’, saying: “I work with dying patients in their own homes – including St Lukes’ referrals. When someone is dying, travelling time and distance matter.

“The site of Little Malgraves Farm has no proper access, rural and impassible due to snow and flooding.

“The hospice is being used as leverage to ‘emotionally enable’ the 50 houses.”

Her speech was followed with a round of applause from the gallery.

Councillor Sue Little said: “Don’t let sympathy for a hospice drive a planning application. Once that concrete is poured, it’s poured and the greenbelt is gone forever,” to which the gallery also applauded.

Councillor Brian Little argued it was the wrong place for the site, saying it was in an area of outstanding beauty and the equestrian centre at the site would also be lost.

He enquired into how much it would cost the council to ferry children to school, due to the site not being in ‘legal distance’ of schools.

Councillor Little said: “We’re looking at paying for children to go to school by paying for taxis and that’s because we’re not in the right place.”

He added: “Some of the most successful hospices are in urban areas. The best place for a hospice is somewhere people can actually get to, like Lakeside.”

Other councillors stroke out strongly in support of the application.

Councillor Gerard Rice said: “When people are passing away, you do need tranquillity in a site. This is not just about six beds, it’s about giving care to children who have cancer, and the knock-on effect on families.”

Councillor Kelly added that they had a housing quota to fill and if the houses don’t go there, they would have to go somewhere else.

Also in support, Councillor Hipsey said: “People also need to consider the rate of return of the application – in a time of cuts to funding, the council would get £150,000 going back into the council’s pot to be invested in highways, social care.”

He also told people that many parents already travelled some distance to get their children to school and that people needed to ‘open up their eyes.’

Councillor Hipsey said: “You want to open your eyes up to what’s happening in this country. Current national planning policies are decimating green belt. The Conservatives are encouraging people to build on greenbelt everywhere.”

A member of the public shouted out, “Be different! Don’t succumb!”

Mr Hipsey added: “It seems two-faced that people in the chamber before voted for the application – and are now voting against it.”

The council voted six in favour and two against the application, with one abstention.