Residents oppose arts centre plan

By James HoreAN angry row about a proposed arts centre is threatening the future of what is regarded as a vital community development. A long-standing project to transform the derelict grade II-listed Engine Shed in Wivenhoe's station car park into a venue providing drama classes, dance nights and operatic events was launched more than 10 years ago.

By James Hore

AN angry row about a proposed arts centre is threatening the future of what is regarded as a vital community development.

A long-standing project to transform the derelict grade II-listed Engine Shed in Wivenhoe's station car park into a venue providing drama classes, dance nights and operatic events was launched more than 10 years ago.

But the plan, which has the backing of the town's amateur drama groups as well as many townsfolk, could be derailed by some residents who have moved into new houses, built after the conception of the idea.


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The former goods shed, which is in need of repair work, was built in 1870 and has stood empty for about 15 years.

But a group of residents from a nearby newly-built estate claimed if the building was converted for community arts use, it would overlook their properties and cause too much noise.

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Sharon Brett, 35, of Spindrift Way, which borders the site, said she and some other residents were unhappy about the proposal.

“If they were going to renovate the existing building, we would have no problem whatsoever, but with the two-story extension it will come a lot closer to our property,” she added.

“There will be nine big windows which are overlooking our property and our concern is also noise pollution.”

She added her fear was the design was too big and if it were to go ahead, there was a danger it could become a “white elephant”.

But Peter Hill, a committee member for the scheme and town councillor, said a lot of concessions had been made.

“One of the residents in particular is extremely worried and would like it scaled back,” he added.

“There will be no late-night drinking, so there will be no late-night rowdiness. It will be charity-run and community-based.”

A number of changes have been made to appease residents, including soundproofing the building to keep the noise to a minimum and agreeing that no-late night drinking outside the building would be allowed.

Trees on the boundary fence will also be retained to provide a screen between the properties and the building.

Last year its then owner, Railtrack, agreed to lease the goods shed to Wivenhoe Town Council for 999 years at a cost of £1.

A proviso of the deal, which was negotiated with the help of North Essex MP Bernard Jenkin, was that the building must be used for community purposes.

If the project is successful, the future management of the building will be delegated to the Wivenhoe Community Association.

The project has already received £10,000 from Wivenhoe Town Council, drawn from its Millennium Fund.

Colchester Borough Council is currently considering the planning application for the redevelopment of the building.

james.hore@eadt.co.uk

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