Clash over student accommodation as MP says plans offer 'little public benefit'
- Credit: Su Anderson
A developer has said it is "disappointed" after an MP branded its plans for a hotel and student accommodation in Colchester as "underwhelming".
Conservative Will Quince said Alumno development in Queen Street - to build 340 student rooms as well as a 87-bed hotel, space for shops, artist studios and public open spaces - "offers little public benefit".
The plans were approved by a government inspector after a two-week public inquiry in 2019.
However, Mr Quince later persuaded Essex County Council to pause the development because of a 64-year-old covenant, which governs the way the former open air bus station is allowed to be used.
Alumno hit back hit back after the lengthy piece published on Mr Quince's website, with managing director David Campbell saying: “We are disappointed with the comments Will Quince has made in his recent article, particularly as we had two productive meetings with him in Parliament to discuss the development."
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Mr Quince has been a long-standing opponent of the plan but said he had wanted to work with Colchester Borough Council and Alumno to make the proposed scheme work.
"I met with Alumno twice to discuss their plans, but my concerns and those raised by local residents were unfortunately not addressed nor were suggestions acted upon," he wrote in his most recent article.
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Among his concerns are a "sheer lack of sufficient public consultation" and his belief that it "represents poor value for money for the Council, given the length of time that is to be agreed on the lease, for such an important prime town centre location".
However, Mr Campbell said that during the two meetings in Parliament: "He voiced no objections to the scheme.
"We asked for his thoughts on the plans and in particular gave him the opportunity to consider the ground floor proposals for community use.
"He did not come back to us with any feedback or any ideas for this space. Both meetings were minuted and formed part of the in-depth consultation process Alumno undertook."
Mr Quince said: "Overall, I, like many residents, believe that this prime town centre site represents an opportunity to bring something of greater value to our town centre and our community.
"Once this site is built on, there is no second chance.
"I make no apology for refusing to settle for what I believe to be an underwhelming proposal for this prime town centre site that offers little public benefit."
Mr Campbell added: “The scheme was deemed acceptable and approved by an independent government planning inspector following an exhaustive and robust hearing.
“We are continuing to progress the plans with a view to commencing work this summer, and, as with all our projects, we are seeking to work in collaboration with local residents, be a good neighbour and put placemaking at the centre of our plans."