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Tollgate Village ‘would lead to slow death of town’ Colchester Borough Council planner tells inquiry

PUBLISHED: 18:09 17 February 2017 | UPDATED: 18:09 17 February 2017

Tollgate Village - artist's impression

Tollgate Village - artist's impression

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An “anti-competition” stance from a north Essex council was slated by a developer today – while the authority said plans for an out-of-town leisure complex would led to the “slow, protracted death” of Colchester town centre.

Closing statements at a planning inquiry into the proposed Tollgate Village in Stanway were heard today.

Both sides – Colchester Borough Council and Tollgate Partnership Ltd – aired their views, and now the planning inspector will make a recommendation to the Secretary of State.

The proposal details an out-of-town shopping village, which would be 20-acres on the former Sainsbury’s site, and would include leisure facilities and a cinema. The council turned down the scheme in February last year, having previously given provisional approval against officer recommendation two months earlier – before the Tollgate Partnership appealed the ruling.

Tollgate Partnership says the plans are in accordance with the town’s development plan and the objectors have misunderstood planning law in their arguments.

It also says the proposal will bring 1,000 new jobs into the centre and help the economy.

In the closing statements Christopher Katkowski, arguing for Tollgate Village, said: “The appellant’s principal submission is that the proposed development enjoys the support of the development plan and the presumption in favour of sustainable development that is now enshrined within the development plan.”

Concluding, he said: “There are compelling reasons to grant permission for these proposals whereas the opposition to them amounts to an anti-competitive stance which is overly protective of established interests at the expense of pursuing the greater public good.”

Colchester Borough Council argued a number of points, including that the development would damage town centre businesses, that it will scupper the borough’s Local Plan before it is formed, will result in a confused and chaotic retail hierarchy, and is not pedestrian-friendly.

Sasha White, arguing for the authority, described the application as “intentionally cloaked in mystery”, adding that “the appellants have sought to be intentionally unclear and obscure what they propose in an attempt to hide what will actually happen”.

He said that will be the destruction of the town centre.

Mr White added: “The effect will not be to provide competition but an embarrassing mismatch between the two competing locations.

“The town centre will face a slow, protracted death whilst the Appellants make a huge commercial return with absolutely no concern whatsoever for the town centre, its retailers, shoppers or environment.”

A final decision is not expected for several weeks.

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David Vincent

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EADT writer David Vincent has more than 40 years experience in Suffolk. He has explored the highways and byeways of East Anglia, meeting homeowners, developers and estate agents from Bury St Edmunds to Aldeburgh and Colchester to Diss.