A team of consultants has been hired to back up the council's Local Plan without members being consulted.

On February 12 an independent commissioner will scutinise Epping Forest District Council's vast 11,400 home Local Plan.

With any statements relating to the inquiry needed to be submitted by January 24, the council has hired a group of consultants to help it defend its development proposals.

In the squad is the £900-a-day managing director of Opinion Research Services, AECOM's £980-a-day technical director and £740-a-day associate director, and the director of Hardisty Jones Associates, who works on a £850 daily rate.

With each consultant working several days the total spent on consultants comes to £45,560, once Jacobs are paid £15,000 to do transport modelling and £13,500 is spent on "additional resource to support responses to statements and requests from the Inspector."

Due to the time constraint the council will not launch a competitive tendering process and then run the results pass councillors.

Instead planning services portfolio holder Councillor John Phillip has rubber stamped the spend.

In his decision signed days before Christmas he wrote: "As the matters, issues and questions are wide ranging and require clearly evidenced arguments, there are areas where the Council will need to commission support from consultants that have previously prepared evidence for the Local Plan, to ensure that the Council can defend its position at Examination.

"The Council may ask consultants to attend the relevant Examination hearings to discuss their evidence, if called upon by the Inspector."