Town 'must do more' to celebrate find
BRITAIN'S oldest recorded town needs to do much more to celebrate one of its most valuable historic finds, it has been claimed. The remains of a Roman chariot track were unearthed during the redevelopment of the Garrison site in Colchester in early 2005.
BRITAIN'S oldest recorded town needs to do much more to celebrate one of its most valuable historic finds, it has been claimed.
The remains of a Roman chariot track were unearthed during the redevelopment of the Garrison site in Colchester in early 2005.
The “Roman Circus” is the only one to be found outside Italy and attracted thousands of excited visitors during a public open day - even leading to calls for Colchester to be granted World Heritage Site status.
But now Liberal Democrats at the Conservative-run borough council have accused their opponents of not doing enough to preserve the find and of failing to capitalise on its potential as a tourist attraction.
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The Tories have denied the claims, saying they hope to open a visitor centre at the site which it regards as one of the town's most important historic and cultural attractions.
The remains of the Roman Circus lie in Abbey Field which is a key part of the multi-million pound redevelopment of the Garrison which is creating thousands of new homes.
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In an open letter from five Liberal Democrat councillors, in the two wards where the circus is, they call for more to be done to give residents and visitors alike the “wow factor”.
It states: “If we were in any other town the council would be taking the lead to ensure that this monument is preserved for future generations.
“This valuable monument is in jeopardy and we are in danger of losing it - this is the last opportunity before development takes place to preserve it for posterity. Please do not let the town of Colchester down.”
Theresa Higgins, one of the protesting councillors, said she felt the public was not having its say.
“Yes, there would be buildings on parts of it, but there could be something that people could walk around and be properly signposted.
“We should be able to do better than a little white line on the ground. York or Chester would have done something more so people could get to see them.”
She said a Roman Circus management plan, detailing what should happen at the site, needed to be adopted by the council and used for planning guidance as soon as possible.
But Kevin Bentley, the cabinet member in charge of tourism, accused the Liberal Democrats of “playing politics with Colchester's history”.
He said: “The Liberal Democrats are making mischief when a lot of work has been done by the officers of the borough council to secure the circus as a tourist attraction.
“We have put in £100,000 to secure match funding with the developers and there is the possibility of having a visitors' centre.”
He said people needed to remember there was not an actual track but simply the foundations of the circus, and that expert guidance was that the best way of preserving it was by covering it with soil again.
“I see it as part of Colchester's cultural arc, with visitors going from the circus and its 2,000-year-old ruins to the current site of the Firstsite arts complex, right up to the castle and Hollytrees Museum.”