“I feel embarrassed to be called a councillor, as all my hard work and passion has been tainted by councillors who made a terrible decision.”

That was the poignant message from Cllr Leon Girling, who sits on Epping Forest District Council and refuses to support its decision to build 154 homes on Jessel Green.

The Guardian’s campaign, with residents of the Debden Park Estate, was launched last week and is taking off.

Voting on the plan took place two weeks ago - just six days after it was officially published.

But although building over Jessel Green has been on the cards for five years, bosses now say there is “not enough time” to make changes.

“It was like holding a gun to our heads,” Cllr Girling added. “There is no way Jessel Green should be on the plan.

“That document was bigger than any JRR Tolkein book, 90 per cent of councillors work for a living so there’s no way they’d have been able to read it all in time.

“It won’t cause a headache to take out, landowners have put forward suitable sites for housing. Why didn’t they have a back up plan?

“We had a lot of Local Plan workshops over the years but they were all for nothing.”

Cllr Girling has lived in the area for six years with his wife and children, and has been instrumental in planning the well-loved fun days in the summer.

Now, he hopes to look into creating other events on the green, such as a music festival.

He said a Facebook group which he set up two years ago, which has nearly 3,000 members, proves how passionate people are to save it.

They have all vowed to fight to the very end.

And more than 300 people turned up to the Guardian’s photo call with just a few hours notice.

He added: “The majority of people who live there are really passionate about being in a community.”

Loughton Town Council has said it is “pleased” the Guardian is supporting residents’ plight in saving the green.

It will be considering its formal response to the current consultation at a public meeting on January 17.

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