Residents are being asked to give their views on proposals for how Thurrock homes, jobs and industry will develop over the next 20 years.
Thurrock Council has given the go-ahead for a public consultation to be launched into its a draft local plan.
Employment land must be found to accommodate approximately 27,000 new jobs primarily associated with the Thames Freeport. The borough also needs to provide 23,320 new homes.
In drawing up the plan over the last seven years, the council has assessed more than 400 potential development sites.
Introducing the draft plan at a special council meeting on Wednesday, Ben Maney, councillor responsible for regeneration and highways, said: “Growth is coming to Thurrock regardless and we need to embrace it or become bystanders in the process.
“We must also realise the opportunity this will bring like more economic prosperity, regeneration and homes for those who need them. Thurrock is of regional and national significance. Our present plan is outdated and with just a year’s housing land supply left we face a real risk of speculative planning applications which the council cannot defend on appeal.”
While councillors broadly agreed with the consultation, some had concerns.
Martin Kerin, Labour councillor for Grays Riverside, said: “Personally, I see gaps in affordable housing, council and social stock, community infrastructure, a fair spread of development and a plan that utilises Thurrock’s economic potential.”
Fraser Massey, Independent councillor for East Tilbury, also raised concerns over the Lower Thames Crossing, which is currently the subject of a Development Consent Order (DCO), but is included in the plan.
He said: “Through the middle of the borough, taking up 14 per cent of our green belt is the Lower Thames Crossing.
“In a few months it might not get through DCO or if it does, the secretary of state might say no we’re not going to do it but it’s on these plans. We’ve waited seven years for these plans. I think we should wait another eight months to find out if that’s going through our green belt or not and then ask residents.”
Neil Speight, independent councillor for Stanford-le-hope West, said: “A local plan should be strategic and connected and it should be feasible in every aspect and I fear the document before us is nowhere near that.”
Luke Spillman, Conservative councillor for Ockendon, said the plan had not been subjected to adequate scrutiny, leaving it “unfinished”.
He added: “There are some really incredible commitments within the plan. There is a commitment to 20 per cent increase in net biodiversity. There’s more than reasonable commitment to affordable housing and the aspiration for building quality houses, net zero houses, is also fantastic.”