�8 million human rights centre for Essex

THE town of Colchester could become home to one of the UK's leading centres for global human rights, creating hundreds of high value jobs and attracting millions of pounds in investment, the EADT can reveal.

Roddy Ashworth

THE town of Colchester could become home to one of the UK's leading centres for global human rights, creating hundreds of high value jobs and attracting millions of pounds in investment, the EADT can reveal.

New plans currently being finalised at Essex University would lead to the creation of an International Centre for Democracy, Peace and Human Rights at its Wivenhoe campus.

The iconic 30,000-square-foot building - set to cost around �8million - would be surrounded by an “office village”, much of which would be occupied by businesses connected with global justice and international law.

These could include national and international agencies, including UN bodies and organisations.

The proposed scheme would replace previous university plans for a hi-tech Research Park - similar to that operated by BT at Martlesham Heath - which have failed to materialise since they were first proposed seven years ago.

Most Read

The project, which would be called the University of Essex Knowledge Gateway, would lead to the construction of more than 1,000 new units of student accommodation at the campus.

It would also include a hotel with conference and leisure facilities.

However, unlike the Research Park proposal, the Gateway plan - which could be operational by as early as 2011 - would not be dependent on first developing university land for private residential accommodation.

If successful, the proposal would be part-funded by a recently-announced �250million programme, drawing in cash from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HECFE) and the East of England Development Agency (EEDA).

It is hoped it would also attract finance from across the world to invest in research, training and professional development within the fields of democracy, peace and human rights from UK government departments, international donor agencies, private foundations, and research councils.

Tony Rich, the university's registrar, was unavailable for comment.

But after being contacted by the EADT, the university issued a statement saying: “Recognising that the current economic climate makes it highly unlikely that we will be able to sell off land for housing, as previously planned, the university is now planning to kick-start the Research Park development - to be renamed the University of Essex Knowledge Gateway - itself.

“By putting in the necessary infrastructure including a much-needed new junction on Clingoe Hill, we will then be able to move forward with 1,300 new units of student accommodation on the Meadows site, the first phase of which already has full planning permission.

“Building on our exceptional performance in the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise, which placed the University ninth in the UK for the quality of its research, we are drawing up plans for an International Centre for Democracy, Peace and Human Rights.

“This flagship project will form the central component of the first phase of development.

“The centre will draw on Essex's internationally recognised strengths in social sciences and human rights to engage cutting edge empirical research, industry-leading training and continuing professional development programmes, public-private partnerships, and commercial activities.”