Decisions on two developments in the centre of Chelmsford could cost the council £20million, it has been heard.

John Shennan playing field – a piece of council-owned land in Moulsham Lodge, that had been set to be developed into 200 homes – will be kept for leisure, it has been decided.

Another piece of council land, next to the Essex Records Office that could be developed into housing at Springfield Lock, has been earmarked for a potential cut – a stretch of canal that would pass across behind the office – allowing boats to motor up from Maldon through Chelmsford.

Former council leader Roy Whitehead said the council needs to explain where it expects to find the £20million the sale of those two pieces of land could raise.

He said: “The failure to develop John Shennan or to sell that site will effectively reduce the capital that we could have earned through its sale.

“Similarly the use of the land in developing a cut would have a similar effect.”

 Councillor Chris Davidson, Cabinet Member for Fairer Chelmsford said:  “We will be coming to that in January won’t we.

“I’m not going to be commenting now on what the future capital of or revenue spending position will be. We will be coming to that in due course.”

John Shennan  was pulled from the local plan by the new Lib Dem admininstration due to concerns over the loss of open space in Moulsham Lodge.

There is no objection from the planning inspector, which is examining the viability of the local plan currently. There will be a further consultation on the change.

Chelmsford City Council has to find and allocate land to build 14,000 houses up to 2036, of which only 2,500 can be built within the existing built up areas. The remaining 11,500 will have to go on green fields.

Tory councillor Mike Steel, speaking at cabinet on Monday (July 1), said: “Regarding John Shennan, I understand that this land has some industrial contamination and the inclusion in the plan enables this contamination to be addressed.

“I would be interested to know how you are going to  deal with the land if the house building is not going to take place there.

“But sticking to the point of the main modification, what assurances have you got that this will not put the whole plan at risk?

“If this results in a lower number of houses how is that being dealt with?”

He said he was sure his ward residents would start asking whether the move would result in more housing in their area.

“They may even ask the question how come some wards’ housing allocation is being reduced?” added Cllr Steel.

“And is this a precedent? Can we all apply for a reduction in our particular wards?”

Cllr Mike Mackrory said: “John Shennan  playing field is in  the ownership of this council so it is the council’s decision whether it comes forward as a housing site.

“It is a well known fact and it is referred to in the plan that there is a deficiency of open space in the Moulsham Lodge area so that is something that we feel is an important issue in an urban  area.

“There may need to be some remedial works done. At the moment we are unsure what this is likely to be – the local members are engaging with the local community and had some productive meeting with them as to what they would like to see happen on that site.

“It is something as an administration we feel is worthwhile.”