£1million project to boost open spaces in town centre

Colchester town centre is set for new open spaces

Colchester town centre is set for new open spaces - Credit: Charlie Ridler

New public open spaces could be created in Colchester town centre as part of a £1million contract.

Colchester Borough Council will vote on awarding Brooks & Wood Ltd the contract for works at St Nicholas Square and Balkerne Gate.

The works aim to turn the areas into “gateway locations” to link local car parks, leisure and retail, and also compliment other public and private sector investments in the town.

The funding was awarded to the council by the Department for Levelling Up, Homes and Communities in 2020, as part of the Town Deal programme.

Although the DLHC requires its funding to be spent quickly, a council report says it has been “lenient” given the pandemic and cost inflation pressures in the supply chain.

Brooks & Wood was the lowest of the submissions but was still significantly higher than originally costed, says the report.

A section read: “Following evaluation of submitted bids against the criteria and process detailed in the Invitation to Tender, the recommended bidder submitted a bid that met the essential requirements and scored the highest overall marks to offer the best combination of technical merit, social value benefits and pricing compared to other bidders.”

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The report continues to say the council originally advertised for a contractor in the summer of 2021, but only one bid was received.

Since this bid was for a £1.2million scheme, with an estimated value of £500,000, the council re-advertised in September that year. 

In December 2021, the Town Deal Panel agreed outstanding funds from other town centre public realm schemes could be reallocated to St Nicholas Square to cover shortfalls created by the price increases and supply chain issues.

If approved, the project will be managed by Colchester Amphora on the council’s behalf.

Disability groups have also been consulted over the designs for the spaces, the report says.

Other schemes which the new spaces aim to complement include the £35m Fenwick department store anchor development, a new Curzon Cinema, a £28m Firstsite visual arts facility, the £10m Greyfriars boutique hotel and the recent £10m refurbishment and expansion of the George Hotel.

The cabinet will vote on the proposals on January 27, 2022.