Jumbo's future thrown into doubt

THE future of one of Colchester's best-known landmarks has once more been thrown into doubt after it emerged its new owner wants to scrap existing plans to turn it into a luxury penthouse.

By Roddy Ashworth

THE future of one of Colchester's best-known landmarks has once more been thrown into doubt after it emerged its new owner wants to scrap existing plans to turn it into a luxury penthouse.

A controversial scheme to transform Jumbo, the Victorian former water tower on Head Street, into an exclusive home with panoramic views over the town was granted on appeal in 2001 after years of protracted argument over the fate of the building.

Its then owner, a businessman who wanted to live in the imposing tower, was given five years to begin work to alter the building before the permission lapsed.


You may also want to watch:


But yesterday it emerged that the current owner, Great Henny-based developer George Braithwaite, wants more time to consider other options for Jumbo after buying at auction for £330,000 at a property auction in February.

He has applied to Colchester Borough Council's planning committee for an extension of the December deadline and has been backed by English Heritage.

Most Read

Yesterday Brian Light, director of the Bakerne Tower Trust - a company that tried and failed to buy the building for public use - said he hoped plans could be revived to run the tower as a self-funding public access operation.

“It is all up in the air again, despite everything that has happened,” he said.

“It is more or less back to square one. Our information is that the new owner doesn't know what he wants to do with it and is genuinely looking for alternatives.

“Having bought it for £330,000, and looking at the £15million cost of converting it into a penthouse, it's hard to see how he would make a return.

“I found it extraordinary it ever reached that value at auction - how on Earth did people think they were going to get their money back?”

Yesterday agent Neil Ward, of NWA Planning in Ipswich, said that Mr Braithwaite wanted to be able to discuss possible alternative schemes for Jumbo with planning officers without the pressure of the December deadline.

“The intention is to make a new application in discussion with the borough council. It is premature to say what that might involve at the moment.

“I can't give anything away because the application is to give everybody breathing space to discuss the options - what might be available.

“All we are asking for is sufficient time for an alternative scheme to be discussed.”

The planning committee has been advised by council officers to allow the extension subject to conditions and will make its decision at a meeting scheduled for October 5 at the town hall.

roddy.ashworth@eadt.co.uk

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter