A profile of Colchester

Find out more about Colchester, its people and the quality of life here, its economy and its aspiration.

The city of Colchester covers an area of 324 square kilometres in North East Essex. It borders Suffolk in the north, along with three Essex districts – Tendring in the east, Braintree in the west and Maldon in the south west.

At its centre is the town of Colchester, surrounded by villages and smaller towns of distinct and complementary character. Some are in the Dedham Vale, a designated area of outstanding natural beauty.

Our largest towns are Wivenhoe, Tiptree and West Mersea. The island of Mersea is at the south of our city, and it forms the city’s principal coastal area. The centre of Colchester, broadly defined by the area within the Roman city walls, is a focal point for the whole city – containing one of the Eastern region’s busiest shopping destinations, as well as many major cultural experiences and leisure attractions.


Colchester is highly accessible from within the UK and from overseas and it has developed the transport links of a major regional destination.

Because we’re easy to reach from London, the Eastern region and the continent, our city is a popular place to live, work, visit, study and do business.

Digital ambition and online access

Colchester is not only physically accessible – it recognises the importance of being digitally accessible and engaged in the global online community.

Colchester City Council’s Digital Strategy has already secured multi-million pound investments into WiFi and Gigabit ultrafast fibre broadband which will be delivered to 15,000 premises by the end of this year.

In the next two years it will also deliver 5G, the next step in mobile technology delivering higher speeds, greater capacity and the ability to support more devices. This is leading the city’s approach to inward investment and connections with the global community.

Resident population

Colchester is an increasingly popular place to live and work.

That’s the main reason why the number of residents has grown fast over the last decade, transforming us into a major regional centre and city-in-waiting.

The city’s current population is 197,200 with 121,859 people living in the urban area of Colchester itself. It is home to 13% of Essex’s people, making it the largest district in the county (ONS, 2020).

Colchester is growing at a faster rate than the rest of Essex. Its population is predicted to grow to 225,200 people by 2031. (East of England Forecasting Model, 2019)

With the exception of London boroughs, metropolitan districts, counties and Unitaries, Colchester is currently the third largest district in England (ONS).

Colchester has a growing population of younger people. Since 2011, Colchester has seen a significant growth in younger age groups, particularly people in their 20s (ONS). Additionally, in 2020, 17.2% of people in Colchester were of retirement age (ONS). Colchester’s population is rapidly becoming more diverse, with an increase in ethnic minority residents from 7.9% in 2009 to 8% in 2020 (ONS).

Economic activity

Colchester’s very diverse range of the city’s 8750 businesses create an economy worth an estimated GVA of £4.43bn.

Key growth sectors for Colchester are tourism, care, construction, green energy and creative, digital and tech enabled by the significant investment in Ultrafast gigabit broadband. Colchester attracts a significant number of workers from outside the city and is an employment hub for North Essex and South Suffolk. Colchester's Annual Economic Report 2019/20 has relevant statistics and case studies.

Recent years have seen an estimated £634m investments which have transformed the experience of the town: including new hotels, visitor attractions, new spaces for businesses, improved retail, new sport and leisure facilities, expansion of the University of Essex, cutting edge connectivity and town centre regeneration.

These investments are just beginning to bear fruit driving employment, transferable skills, new business opportunities and creating a new, contemporary tourism image for Colchester to complement its historic reputation: one that’s forward-focussed.

In keeping with a growing population Colchester’s education provision is expanding to accommodate the many families who are making the city the place where they raise their families. Colchester crackles with educational opportunity, and not just for young people – our people have a real thirst for learning, reflected in the wide variety of provision open to them. All of this forms a solid pipeline of skills for the local economy and beyond.

Quality of life

Some of the most important events in British history have taken place here. Today, Colchester mixes pride in its impressive heritage with a great choice of modern attractions, shops, restaurants, cafes and bars.

Close to the coast and nationally important landscapes, Colchester is a great place to live with a diversity of places to go and things to do as well as a thriving voluntary sector.

A regional shopping centre

With few cities in the region, Colchester is an important shopping centre for residents of the city and beyond.

Colchester has two flagship shopping centres in the town centre: Lion Walk and Culver Square. Both contain a good mix of big-name stores.

These shopping centres are complemented by Colchester’s collection of independent retailers and an historic market.


Colchester is an increasingly popular place to live and work, and it is a major visitor destination. There are many good reasons to visit Colchester and we are proud to welcome people to our city. Even a single day spent in the Colchester area reveals a city with the confidence of a long history, combined with an optimistic and energetic outlook on the future.

In 2019 alone, visitors made 6.6 million trips to and in Colchester, including 269,000 staying trips and 6.3 million day trips (Economic Impact of Tourism 2019 ‘Cambridge Model’). The total value of tourism was £394m and it supported more than 5,400 jobs.

Page last reviewed: 4 October 2021


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