A developer has applied to demolish houses owned by people opposed to his plan to build a block of flats.

Lee Jose, of LJ Construction, has been trying for five years to gain permission for the four-storey development in Bedford Road, South Woodford, but repeated applications have been turned down by Redbridge Council.

The planning committee agreed with residents that the proposed development, which involved knocking down existing buildings, was out of keeping with the area.

Now, in an unusual move, Mr Jose has applied to demolish two neighbouring houses and build flats, despite not owning them.

Anyone can apply for planning permission for any site in principle and it is believed Mr Jose is attempting to set a precedent enabling him to press ahead with his original plan.

Sue Brown, 49, of who lives in one of the houses, has vowed to continue to oppose the development.

She said: “We have been fighting this for five years and it looks like it is going to go on indefinitely. We are staying amicable but Mr Jose has taken the fight to us by requesting permission to knock down our houses.

“People think we have sold out to developers, but we have not and we want to assure everyone we are going to continue fighting this.”

Tom Jennings, 59, who lives opposite the proposed development site, is angry about the move.

He said: “The planning process is heavily in favour of developers and it seems as if he will keep putting in appeals and will win eventually.

“This is a blatant and cynical attempt by the developer to obtain a precedent regarding the approval in principle for a four storey development on properties he does not own.”