BRENTWOOD Council has been threatened with legal action by a group of badger lovers determined to ensure plans to build two houses never get off the ground.

The move comes after Brentwood Council's planning committee discussed three controversial applications to develop land adjacent to Longaford Way, in Hutton Mount.

At the meeting, held on Tuesday night, planning bosses threw out two detailed proposals, submitted by Brentwood-based Stonebond Properties, to build two six-bedroom homes.

However, they agreed to renew outline planning permission, which was applied for by the land owner, which means the land could still be built on.

Residents and members of the Essex Badger Protection Group, who say any plans will endanger badgers living on the land, have clubbed together for a planning barrister.

He spoke at the meeting and accused the council of switching the order in which the applications were discussed at the last minute.

Barrister Charles Banner said: “Because of the switch in the order, the principle of development was resolved before the person who was here to give you expert evidence was able to speak.

“I think it renders your first decision highly susceptible to investigation. This may have to be reconsidered.”

Badger enthusiast Ralph Patmore, who lives nearby in Challacombe Close and has been campaigning against the applications, revealed residents had forked out more than £20,000 for Mr Banner’s expertise.

He said: “There’s still a lot to play for. We will be pursuing a judicial review saying the application wasn’t heard openly or fairly.”

Stonebond last applied to build on the land last year, but withdrew the application before it could be voted on.

Under the law, it is illegal to kill or injure badgers, or interfere with their setts.

Despite having two applications turned down, Stonebond boss Chris Weedon, said the company would not give up the site.

He said: “We are considering putting in a scaled down application, but appealing the decision is also an option.

“I remain absolutely confident that no badgers will be harmed or hurt if development goes ahead.”