New delay in town revamp plans
A COUNCIL last night agreed a further period of consultation on controversial multi-million pound plans to regenerate part of a town centre.But pending the results of the additional public debate, councillors backed proposals for a £250 million development of the St Botolph's quarter of Colchester.
A COUNCIL last night agreed a further period of consultation on controversial multi-million pound plans to regenerate part of a town centre.
But pending the results of the additional public debate, councillors backed proposals for a £250 million development of the St Botolph's quarter of Colchester.
At a full meeting of Colchester Borough Council it was agreed that an eight-week moratorium should be called on the redevelopment to allow the public more opportunity to have their say about the proposal.
The scheme includes the creation of a new visual arts facility (VAF), the relocation of Colchester bus station to a site nearer the town centre and new magistrates' courts.
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A flagship department store, the creation of a heritage trail and a footbridge over a dual carriageway – linking new residential developments with the town's main retail area – also feature in the plans.
But although most local people agree the area does need revamping, many also oppose the detail of the proposed scheme.
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More than 10,000 people have signed a petition calling for the bus station to remain at its current Queen Street base and some traders whose properties are threatened have spoken out.
Others are also concerned that the VAF could end up being an expensive millstone round council taxpayers' necks and that the new development would be out-of-keeping with Colchester's historic architecture.
Last night the council – which has already held extensive public consultation on the scheme – agreed to a further two-month period for people to register their views.
The Conservatives accepted two amendments from the Liberal Democrats which the latter claimed "tightened up" the motion adopting the St Botolph's masterplan as council policy.
The first called for the eight-week period of consultation, which the Lib Dems said was necessary to increase public confidence in its role in developing the scheme.
The second sought to ensure that temporary bus station facilities were provided while the work took place, council car parking was not significantly diminished before the town's proposed park and ride scheme was up and running and that the final building designs should be sympathetic to the area.
Labour members of the council, however, opposed elements of the scheme, especially plans for the moving of the bus station. A Labour amendment calling for it to remain at its present site was defeated.
Colin Sykes, Lib Dem leader on the council, said: "I believe the masterplan is right for Colchester. I am not going to do anything that is going to ruin the town."
Richard Gower, Conservative cabinet member with responsibility for planning and transportation, said: "The St Botolph's area is in desperate need of regeneration. There is no doubt about that.
"I don't like the current bus station. I think it's an ugly, nasty place. It strikes me as logical to put the bus station near the people rather than away from the people which is where it currently is."
Leader of the Labour Group Tim Young said: "I must congratulate the composers of this masterplan for also doing something quite remarkable in mobilising a massive and uniquely diverse coalition of opposition against elements of it.
"This coalition consists of not only the Labour Group but also those unlikely bedfellows Colchester Anarchists Group and Colchester Civic Society plus the trade unions, Colchester Bus Users Group, Friends of the Earth, Priory Residents Association, Abbeygate Residents Association, Save Our Bus Station, Bob Russell MP, small traders, disabled groups, students, women's groups and many, many others."