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Colchester: Town’s bid to preserve historical sites including Roman cemetery, castle and military camp

PUBLISHED: 15:06 19 April 2014

Colchester Castle

Colchester Castle

Landmark proposals to protect Colchester’s heritage will significantly boost tourism and create a lasting legacy to the town’s rich history, it was claimed last night.

Councillors are expected this month to adopt a new Colchester Borough Council archaeology strategy designed to preserve and improve the town’s historical sites of national importance.

Buried medieval remains, surviving monuments and historic buildings – including Iron Age dykes, Roman cemetery areas and a military camp – have been earmarked for protection.

Tim Young, portfolio-holder for community and culture at the town’s borough council, said it was important the authority moved to safeguard its “absolutely critical” historical assets for cultural, educational and financial reasons.

The tourism industry is worth more than £224million to Colchester’s economy, supporting 5,630 jobs, according to the proposals.

The Local Plan Committee will meet on April 28 to decide whether to adopt the scheme.

It comes ahead of the £4.2m relaunch of Colchester Castle on May 2, overseen by Princess Anne in a guided tour last month.

Authors of the 30-page proposal, entitled An Archaeological Strategy for Colchester Borough, said the town has an exceptionally long and varied history; a “civic pride and enjoyment” for residents.

“Given the national importance of heritage assets in the historic core and the need to ensure the town’s continuing and sustainable development, there is a pressing need for a detailed strategy to ensure their conservation”, the report said.

“Colchester therefore needs a robust, effective and wide-ranging strategy for managing the remains of its historic past for the benefit of today’s community and for future generations.

“The proper management, interpretation and conservation of the town’s heritage places a heavy responsibility on the council and its partners.”

There are 40 sites of national importance in Colchester, including the only known Roman Circus in Britain and a series of extensive town walls thought to be among the oldest in the country.

They also include areas of land west, east and south of the town centre at Sheepen and Hillyfields and Upper Castle Park, which contains the remains of the largest Norman keep in Europe.

New government rules stipulate authorities must conserve heritage assets in accordance with their significance so that they can be “enjoyed for their contribution to the quality of life of this and future generations”.

The National Planning Policy Framework guidelines insist authorities must consider the effect heritage proposals have on creating sustainable communities, including whether it will impact on their economy and character.

Mr Young said: “With the reopening of Colchester Castle and this strategy, we are giving Colchester a bigger profile which will hopefully attract more residents to enjoy our heritage – which makes the town so special.

“Colchester is Britain’s oldest recorded town, and is a fast-growing town, so we need to balance future development with protecting our heritage.

“Officers have spent a lot of time on these proposals. They are fit for purpose and hopefully the committee will endorse them because it’s important that present and future councillors have something to refer to when looking at future strategies.”

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