Cllr Louise McKinlay is the Leader of Brentwood Borough Council.

With a severe national shortage of housing, councils up and down the country are busy identifying land and sites for future growth and development.

In Brentwood, we need to find space for around 7,500 homes for over the next twenty years. In a borough like ours, which is made up of villages and which is 88 per cent Green Belt, this is no easy challenge.

As part of our plans, we are seeking to preserve the nature of Brentwood and protect the rural environment of our villages. With enough brownfield land to satisfy around half of the target number of new dwellings, this inevitably brings us in to the green belt.

Rather than over-expand the existing villages, our proposals include the creation of a new garden village at Dunton Hills for upwards of 2,500 homes. The government announced in the new year that the Council’s bid to include the site as part of their Garden Villages, Towns and Cities Programme had been successful, a result which we are rightly proud of.

Larger scale development is always controversial but I believe that if the scheme is done correctly, it will help in protecting the existing villages from future expansion, whilst also delivering new homes for the next generation. 35 per cent of the scheme will be made up of affordable and starter homes, supported by key investment in the necessary infrastructure, something which is paramount to ensure that new growth areas like Dunton Hills are both deliverable and sustainable.

With plans included for a new all-through school, the creation of an additional country park and healthcare facilities along with a shopping and leisure area, we have an opportunity here in Brentwood to deliver something special and in keeping with our borough in the form of much needed homes, with a real heart at the centre of the community.

The successful bid to Government means that funding support will be provided so additional background work can be done, focusing particularly on the issue of road capacity and associated improvements to the A127 to ensure that we get the very best for both our existing and future residents.

In addition, we will be looking to draw on government’s knowledge and expertise via the Homes and Communities Agency, as we finalise the details of the proposals to deliver a new village that we can be proud to call part of Brentwood and we will still have protected 87 per cent of our Green Belt.