New bus station to cost up to £7m

A TOTAL of £7 million has been ring-fenced specifically to build a new bus station in Colchester, the EADT can reveal.The cost of the new facility is almost half of that of a controversial visual arts gallery to be built on the site of the current open-air Queen Street terminal.

By Roddy Ashworth

A TOTAL of £7 million has been ring-fenced specifically to build a new bus station in Colchester, the EADT can reveal.

The cost of the new facility is almost half of that of a controversial visual arts gallery to be built on the site of the current open-air Queen Street terminal.

The funding for the new bus station has been agreed by Caddick, the firm appointed to develop a massive new retail development in the run-down St Botolph's part of town.

The scheme, known as “Vineyard Gate”, forms part of the planned regeneration of the area that is hoped to attract hundreds of millions of pounds in external investment.

Yesterday Ian Vipond, head of housing and environmental policy at Colchester Borough Council, said: “The developer has ring-fenced that money - it is there for the bus station and nothing else.

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“There is definitely going to be a new bus station. Every possible option has a bus station, and £7 million has been set aside for it.”

Mr Vipond's comments came after fears were raised that the new bus station would never be built at all.

Bus users in Colchester have campaigned against the loss of the existing terminal, which is due to be replaced by a £16.5 million visual arts facility (VAF) if plans are not called in by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.

A temporary bus station is to be built adjacent to the site to cover the period of time between the VAF being built and the construction of the new terminal.

Timothy Oxton, a campaigner for pressure group Save Our Bus Station, said he was concerned the Vineyard Gate development would never be built at all and that passengers would be lumbered with the temporary bus station as a permanent measure.

“The reason for this is that the new bus station is depends totally on a legal agreement with the developers.

“They are meant to be providing a bus station free of charge to the council.

“But all of this is crucially dependent on a major store such as House of Fraser signing up to it.

“If they were keen, they would surely have got all this stitched up by now - they have been talking for over a year.

“But if you look at reports about the retail market at the moment, you can see it's not very bullish. And if they don't sign, and the whole scheme collapses, so does the £7 million for the new bus station.”

However Robert Davidson, Colchester Borough cabinet member with responsibility for regeneration, said Mr Oxton's fears were groundless.

“I can say that the major store is still champing at the bit to come to Colchester.

“The developer has spent many millions of pounds working on this scheme already and is still extremely confident.

“The reason there has been some delay is because of a design rethink after public comments about the provisional drawings of the development.

“Having taken comments made by the public, there are also some improvements being made.

“The council is a major contributor to this scheme, in terms of land, and it is in our interests to get the best investment and facilities for the tax payer and for Colchester.”

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