A document that will see 11,400 homes built across the district over the next 15 years was scrutinised in public hearings for the first time on Tuesday.

Led by planning Inspector Louise Phillips the month of hearings into the Local Plan got off to a heated start, with opposition members accusing the council of being prejudiced with its communications.

Such challenges are made by opponents of Epping Forest District Council's vast planning document in the hope it will be judged unsound.

Before opponents got stuck in however, Ms Phillips and the council's planning portfolio holder Cllr John Philip addressed a crowded room at Civic Offices in Epping.

Several neighbourhood watch groups, Epping Society, town councillors and Loughton Residents Association watched on at the first of many hearings to take place in February and March.

A key argument for those opposing the plan was that the associated public consultation had not been adequate, with the decision to hold it during the 2017 Christmas period criticised.

Kay Morrison, of the Limes Farm Residents' Association, said there had been "minimal" contact and residents had to pay for printed copy of the Local Plan.

She said: "£20 a copy may not be a great deal to some Chigwell residents, but others find it difficult to juggle their money to pay their bills. A copy of the Local Plan is not likely to be right at the top of peoples' shopping lists.

"This is another way to exclude those affected. It's another way to shut them up.”

Andrew Smith, of Epping Society, also asked why printed copies were not available after Christmas 2017.

"There was one copy at Epping Library but no notice to tell people that it was there," he said.

In response, assistant director of planning policy Cllr Alison Blom-Cooper said that the council was concerned about not reaching the submission deadline for the new regulations on March 31.

She also added 10,000 people who were registered on the Local Plan database had been written to and that extra care was taken to notify residents of the plan during the Christmas holidays.

The district council also noted several press releases, leaflets and advertisements were issued during this period.

Concerns were also raised with the housing proposed for Jessel Green.

The 154 homes allocated to the Debden field have attracted a great deal of scorn, a 5,500 signature petition and numerous protests.

While touched on briefly on the first day, Jessel Green is likely to be a key part of the hearings over the next two months.

Cllr Philip said the council had undertaken "extensive" work since the Local Plan process began in 2010 and that "difficult decisions and choices which have not been supported by everyone" had been made.

A livestream of the hearings and details of future events can be found at tinyurl.com/y533ru3q