Talks with retailers and developers over Colchester’s Vineyard Gate scheme ‘ongoing’
PUBLISHED: 18:21 03 February 2017 | UPDATED: 18:21 03 February 2017
A new precinct for Colchester town centre is poised for development – once a Government minister rules on plans for an out-of-town shopping centre.
Talks are ongoing with both developers and big name retailers over Colchester Borough Council’s plans for the Vineyard Gate scheme, centred around the Vineyard Street car park.
The project was first put forward more than 10 years ago and has faced a series of major setbacks. These have included the recession, the withdrawal of Caddicks as the council’s development partner from the scheme, and the decision by Primark to use the former BHS store for its new Colchester outlet – opening on Thursday – instead of being a top name to draw in potential tenants to Vineyard Gate.
But council leader Paul Smith has revealed talks with both developers and retailers are in advanced stages over the project.
Mr Smith said holding up the process was the ongoing planning inquiry over plans from Tollgate Partnership Limited (TPL) for Tollgate Village in Stanway, a proposed mixed-use site with shops and a cinema, which was making investors reluctant to sign a final deal.
He said: “We are having ongoing talks with a development partner.
“The council is continuing to acquire properties in the area to give it the optimal footprint.
“It is interesting other developments are starting to come on stream such as Primark, which will have an impact on shopping flows and is a big draw.
“If Tollgate is approved – and I hope it’s not – it would clearly have a potential impact and we would have to look at the size and type of development at Vineyard Gate.”
Although he would not be drawn on timing, the council leader said once Tollgate was resolved “we would certainly expect matters to move forward much more quickly”.
Mr Smith added he could not reveal which developers and tenants the council was in talks with, but said “a number” of tenants had expressed an interest and did not rule out existing town centre stores moving into Vineyard Gate.
Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Sajid Javid has said he will rule on the plans, following a recommendation from a planning inspector.
Daniel Watts, a director of TPL, said: “TPL met with Colchester Borough Council about Vineyard Gate in September, but we have been ignored since then. It seems the council doesn’t want to work with a local developer.
“TPL believes that as Colchester is the fastest-growing borough in the UK there’s capacity for all three schemes; Tollgate Village, Vineyard Gate and the Northern Gateway [a council project next to the Weston Homes Community Stadium].
“The Vineyard Gate scheme being discussed would not be pared back as a result of having Tollgate Village. During the inquiry Next and River Island have said they would go to Vineyard Gate even if Tollgate Village was going ahead.”