Fury at new art gallery plan

By Roddy AshworthRESIDENTS have criticised a plan to redevelop an area of their town, accusing an unelected organisation of “foisting” a new art gallery on them.

By Roddy Ashworth

RESIDENTS have criticised a plan to redevelop an area of their town, accusing an unelected organisation of “foisting” a new art gallery on them.

Rob Brown, vice-chairman of the Priory Residents' Association, said people in Colchester should have had more of a say in the design of the proposed Firstsite gallery.

A competition was run by the Royal Institute of British Architects to design the art gallery, which is part of the proposed regeneration of the St Botolph's area of Colchester.

It was judged by a panel including representatives from Colchester Borough Council, the existing Firstsite gallery and Essex University, which is set to house its collection of Latin American art in the new building.

The winner was a modern design put forward by Rafael Vinoly, but Mr Brown felt it was wrong that an unelected panel had made the final decision, which he said should have been taken by residents.

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“We all want to see the area regenerated, but a lot of people whose houses may be knocked down have not been consulted by the council. We need more time,” added Mr Brown.

He was also concerned the new Firstsite gallery could fail financially and added: “All the people who are supporting it are not going to have to pay if it goes belly up. It's a crazy situation. If it goes wrong, are people going to resign?”

Colchester's cabinet member for regeneration, Ken Jones, said the public had been consulted over a draft masterplan for regenerating the St Botolph's area.

“The public response to the masterplan is currently being evaluated. That is what consultation is. These are proposals, not decisions. The plan is being reworked with people's views factored in,” he added.

roddy.ashworth@eadt.co.uk

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