After several delays councillors are expected to make a decision on whether more than 160 homes will be built on land which forms part of the Little Thurrock Marshes.

Council officers have been urging members of the Planning Committee to refuse planning permission for the 161 homes because they will be built on green belt land but councillors have insisted the homes could benefit workers at the Tilbury 2 port extension.

A meeting is now set for next week and council officers are once again recommending the plans be thrown out, calling the green belt issues of “paramount importance”.

The push to grant planning permission has primarily come from Labour councillor Gerard Rice who has said not only will they provide housing for new residents working in Tilbury but they will also help the borough achieve its housing targets, which have been laid out by central government.

When the plans were first discussed in March, he said: “We have to produce 32,000 homes and at this time the authority sits very much at the bottom of tables for housing delivery.

“Of those 32,000 around 8,000 will be out of brown fields and 24,000 from green fields.”

His position is a departure from the views of Labour councillor Michael Fletcher, who is deputy chair of the committee.

Mr Fletcher has been reluctant to support the application.

In a previous discussion, he explained: “The fact its built on green belt, that is harm that isn’t going away and there is nothing we will see that will take that away.”

He has further cautioned that the only way the councillor can justify planning permission is if they can show “clear material reasons” why they do not agree.

Residents have also strongly opposed the plans, with more than 700 objections being lodged ahead of an initial committee meeting.

Their concerns centre heavily around the potential for increased traffic congestion and a strain on local infrastructure.

Under the plans there will be 87 three-bed homes and 18 two-bed homes sold at market price, along with a further 56 ‘affordable’ homes that will range from one-bed flats to four-bed houses.