Benefits justify mixed scheme in historic town centre

Any heritage harm would be outweighed by the numerous benefits of a major mixed-use redevelopment in the centre of Colchester, an inspector has decided.

The proposal included a four-storey hotel and a realigned access into the site. Behind this, fronting a new street, three linked blocks of student accommodation fronting a new rampart walk adjacent to the town’s Roman wall were proposed. A new public square would be created, following demolition of a disused bus garage. Beneath the student accommodation would be a mixture of ground-floor retail, commercial, and creative uses.

An adopted masterplan for the site promoted a mixed scheme with market and affordable housing, but site constraints had prevented this coming forward. The inspector noted that other policies in the plan supported provision of student accommodation in the town centre. In his view, the scheme could only serve to enhance vitality and viability in the area. He also remarked that the design had been supported by CABE and local design trusts.

The inspector held that any harmful impact on nearby listed buildings would be less than substantial, with only certain vistas affected. He also concluded that the impact on the Roman wall would, overall, be positive. He considered that the site’s current condition had a negative effect on the character of a conservation area and the settings of designated heritage assets.

In that light, he saw redevelopment of the site as an opportunity to enhance this part of the conservation area and to improve the wider setting of these assets. Subject to detailed design revisions, he was satisfied that the proposed hotel would maintain the traditional pattern of built form in the area and that the architecture of the new street and student accommodation, although modern, would reflect existing characteristic design themes. 

Inspector: Melvyn Middleton; Inquiry

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