Proposal for a leisure complex in Stanway including cinema and shops is deferred

Tollgate Village - artist's impression

Tollgate Village - artist's impression - Credit: Archant

Councillors have deferred a decision on plans for a leisure quarter in Stanway including shops, restaurants and a multiplex cinema.

Colchester Borough Council’s planning committee was deadlocked tonight at six votes each on a motion to reject the plan in line with officers’ recommendation – with the committee’s chairman, Jon Manning, using his casting vote in favour of the developer’s scheme.

However, because the decision was against the recommendation, the final decision to approve the scheme, known as Tollgate Village, has now been deferred while officers assess the potential risk to the council of giving the proposals the green light.

The plans, from Tollgate Partnership Ltd, would be a major extension to the existing shopping centre, creating an estimated 520 new jobs.

Councillors against the plans said the scheme went against planning policy because it proposed retail on land earmarked for employment use, and would cause the town centre to stagnate or decline as trade and investment would be lost. This has also been backed by town centre businesses. Planning officers had recommended the scheme was refused on those grounds, citing Tollgate West as the sixth most important employment site in the borough.

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Planning officer Vincent Pearce told the meeting: “Our view is the significant adverse impact the proposals will have on the town centre, the loss of high quality employment land, are such they outweigh the benefits strongly.

“It is not a finely-judged case, it’s contrary to the local adopted plan and national planning policy and we strongly recommend refusal.” He added that it would undermine a longer-term aim of future expansion of high value jobs.

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Stanway parish councillor Stephen Mann, who supports the scheme, said: “Refusal will set Colchester back years with regards to competing with other towns in Essex and Suffolk.” The majority of public responses to the scheme, mostly from Stanway residents, supported it.

West Stanway ward councillor Jackie Maclean, who backs the proposals, said housing near the planned scheme was also on employment land and was made possible by a “land swap” which could be repeated.

Pauline Hazell, who proposed the plans were approved, said “shopping was the new religion” and people were looking for different experiences.

She said: “The reason the town centre will not thrive is not because of outreach like Tollgate. The town centre must stand on its own two feet – it must up its game and the competition from Tollgate will provide that.”

Speaking against the proposals, councillor Rosalind Scott said she wanted jobs, not car parks created. She argued the scheme was “unsustainable”, “inflexible” and would undermine future growth.

Jayne Gee, director at Tollgate Partnership, said after the meeting: “We are hearted by the result of the vote for the proposal and more importantly they listened to the people not just in Stanway but across the borough that Tollgate Village would enhance Colchester.”

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