PLANS to build 205 new homes on the site of a former hospital have taken a step closer to becoming reality.

Developer Bellway Homes has put in a planning application to transform 17 acres of land, which used to make up Highwood Hospital and Little Highwood Hospital, on Geary Drive, into a new housing estate.

Bellway bought the land from NHS South West Essex for approximately £12million earlier this year, but the deal has only just been formally completed.

The developer said it wants to build 205 flats and houses on the site, 72 of which will be designated for social housing.

The hospital was made a conservation area by Brentwood Council in 2001, meaning Bellway will have to meet strict conditions.

The plans were first revealed earlier this year and prompted concerns over the extra traffic being generated by the site, which is close to the town centre.

Residents said they feared the junction with Costead Manor Road would become gridlocked and they want a roundabout at the junction with Ongar Road.

Ward councillor Reg Straw said: “They are good developers and they’ve shown themselves amenable to our suggestions.

“I am still very concerned about excess traffic on Geary Drive and the junction with Ongar Road and Costead Manor.

“I will continue to negotiate with them over that and I’ll be keeping an eye on the plans.

“But the development will be a good thing, bringing us much needed social housing close to the town centre.”

Louise McKinlay, council leader, said: “The council will ensure residents are given the opportunity to make their views known, but it is good news the area is going to be regenerated. Because some of the hospital’s original buildings will be kept, it will retain some of the area’s history.”

Under the provisional plans, Bellway will build 139 new homes, refurbish 66 existing houses and 56 existing flats.

The old hospital site will have 109 of the homes, while 96 will be on the Little Highwood site.

Room is being made for 388 cars and the properties will be a mix, from one-bedroom flats to six-bedroom houses. Hedgerows Nursing Home and Highwood Surgery stay.

Housing developer Persimmon Homes had been in line to buy the site back in 2008, and had rumoured plans to build 400 homes, but the deal fell through.