The Liberal-Democrat & Labour Coalition that controls Colchester Borough Council has ruthlessly bulldozed its way past all objections to the Alumno deal to create 336-student flats, an 87-bed Travelodge hotel and retail units. But the controversial plans has drawn vehement opposition from residents, councillors and campaigners.
In what must be the Council’s worst-ever deal, Alumno will pay Colchester Council £980,881 for a 250-year lease on the site, after a secret deal was signed off by the Council’s cabinet, involving almost 100 un-minuted meetings between the Council and the Developer.
Town Centre Conservative Councillor Simon Crow said; “I’m deeply disappointed that this development has been given the green light. It was never a suitable use for this important site. The failing coalition council had promised a Cultural Quarter but instead showed a clear lack of vision and aspiration for the town centre. The deal is unbelievably bad. The Council have literally given away a prime town centre development site for a hotel and major residential development for a derisory £ 3923 a year.
The final hurdle was the Planning Permission. Unfortunately a worst-ever financial deal was not a material planning consideration, so it was not possible to halt this fiasco in its tracks using planning policy."
Even Colchester’s High Steward Sir Bob Russell was reported in the local press as launching a scathing attack on the Liberal-Democrat and Labour Coalition’s handling of the scheme. He said: “I want to register my disgust at the monumental planning disaster which has afflicted Colchester regarding the decision on the Queen Street site. I have to say the cabinet which pushed it through and the officers who advised them have failed Colchester’s past, Colchester’s present and Colchester’s future and I hope they will hang their heads collectively in shame. The sooner they depart the better.”
Cllr Lewis Barber, Deputy Leader of the Colchester Borough Council Group added: "Conservatives have worked with community representatives and have always opposed the developer Alumno's proposals for our town’s cultural quarter. Colchester Conservatives wanted the community to shape the future of the site rather than have a development imposed on them, after the Liberal Democrats and Labour Coalition signed a contract with the developer for the site."
A Conservative Council pledges to give residents a say over what should be built in future schemes this important area of town centre.