Delay to plans for huge block of student flats

CGI of the Colne Quay student flats in Colchester

CGI of the Colne Quay student flats - Credit: Whittam Cox Architects

Fears that new quayside blocks of student flats could reduce the amount of daylight neighbours receive has led to a delay in the project.

Colchester Borough councillors branded the proposals by Beyond the Box for the studio apartments in The Hythe as “overdevelopment”, but found they had limited legal grounds for a refusal.

The scheme would involve 270 student flats being built on the bank of the River Colne.

Public benefits, most significantly a major rebuilding of the sea wall and the clearing of rubbish and detritus from the Colne, are also being proposed by the applicant.

The council planning committee has deferred a decision to wait for more information from the developer and officers as to whether the height of the development can be reduced.

The scheme had already been reduced from 300 flats before the meeting. 

Officer James Ryan said at the meeting the estimated costs to repair the sea wall alone, which is “effectively collapsing”, neared £1million.

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The site was once a series of coal bunkers and has been vacant for nearly 50 years.

Mr Ryan said: “One of the key benefits of this scheme is the significant investment the applicants are making in completely rebuilding the sea wall, all the way along there to allow the rejuvenation of the public right of way along its definitive line and to allow the mooring of boats alongside.”

But landlord of the nearby Spinnaker pub Rob Isbister said families and communities on this side of the river would be impacted by the proposals.

He told the meeting: “Please, please don’t exchange it for this oversized monstrosity on a totally inadequate strip of land.”

Beyond the Box director Simon Talbort said the company worked hard to ensure the local community, including the Spinnaker, was engaged with its plans through consultations, and had listened to residents’ feedback about retaining open space.

He said: “We are an operator that develops and builds, we’re unusual in that sense in that we design buildings that we actually want to run and we think deliver a great product for our students.

“We’re not building this up to go and flog it to the bloke round the corner for a profit, we’ll own this site for the next 20 years to run it.”