ENGLAND’S oldest recorded town could net a £10million windfall if it wins the race to become the UK’s City of Culture in 2017, it was claimed last night.

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The team behind Colchester’s bid said landing the prestigious honour is likely to lead to significant investment.

Dorian Kelly, who is leading the coalition of arts organisations, community groups and businesses, said they stood a “good as anyone, better than most” chance of winning.

Mr Kelly, who describes himself as an arts entrepreneur, insists Colchester is able to enter the contest – despite being a town – because the criteria for entry is to have a population above 100,000.

He said: “This is 2012 – we have done the Olympics, the Cultural Olympiad and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. So Colchester can do it. The success of the Olympics was a big factor in our deciding to do this.

“On the basis of Norwich and Derry’s bid in 2013 – and Liverpool’s for the European Capital of Culture – we know for a fact that major sponsors like BT have ring-fenced up to £10m for whoever wins – so there’s a possibility of at least that level of investment.”

Mr Kelly revealed the group had already begun writing the bid document.

The Department of Culture, Media and Sport is expected to invite bids shortly and Colchester will then have three months to submit its application.

A shortlist of towns and cities is expected to be drawn up in 2013 – which is when the real work begins, according to Mr Kelly – before a winner is announced in late 2014.

The coalition behind the bid, initially going under the name of The Culture Company, has commissioned an independent impact assessment to gauge what benefits Colchester would see if it was successful.

Mr Kelly said he expects it to reveal that even if Colchester is just shortlisted it will be in a “win-win” situation.

He said all five of those shortlisted for UK City of Culture 2013 had since reported that funding was easier to come by and visitor numbers have gone up.

The bid – much like the town’s attempt to be named a city in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee year – is community focused, meaning a lot of work is being provided for free.

Mr Kelly said the cost of entering the contest was negligible, with money just needing to be found for things like meeting rooms.

He added he was in discussions with Colchester Borough Council but it is unclear at this stage whether the authority would be supporting the bid.

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