Date issued: 8 February 2021
The public is being invited to help shape a new strategy for the management of Colchester’s Roman Circus, the only known chariot-racing track in Britain and one of only a few unearthed in northern Europe.
Once agreed, the Roman Circus Management Plan will set out the roles and responsibilities of the council and key stakeholders involved in protecting the nationally-important heritage asset, providing a vision and framework for its conservation, enhancement, interpretation, presentation and celebration over the next five years.
Following the consultation exercise, which started today (8 February 2021), the Management Plan could then be amended to become supplementary planning guidance, which would further protect the monument and its setting from redevelopment.
The council has also launched a separate public consultation on a draft development brief for the neighbouring and potentially archaeologically significant DSG site, which was once used as a military vehicle repair facility and vacated in 2019.
Proposals to extend the Garrison Conservation Area to include
the ABRO site are also being considered, to help protect the surviving buildings associated with the former Le Cateau Barracks and the setting of the circus.
An informal consultation was undertaken last year with councillors, the landowner, Colchester Archaeological Trust, the Civic Society, Historic England, the Highway Authority and Essex Police, in light of the Defence Estates’ intention to dispose of the site for redevelopment in the near future. Their comments have already been considered in drafting the development brief that will go out to wider public consultation.
As with the Roman Circus Management Plan, the status of the DSG brief could eventually be altered to become a supplementary planning document.
Though its remains are now entirely below ground, the scale of the Roman Circus is impressive, being around 450m in length with an estimated seating capacity of 8,000. It was discovered in 2005 within the site of the old garrison and is a Scheduled Monument – meaning it currently receives the same status and protection as other heritage sites such as Colchester Castle, the Balkerne Gate and the Roman Walls.
Cllr Julie Young, Portfolio Holder for Culture & Performance and Deputy Leader of the Council, said: “‘Unique’ is a word that is often misused. However, Colchester’s Roman Circus really can be said to be unequalled in the UK. It is therefore only right that we do as much as we can to protect it and raise its profile – both as a standalone attraction and to take its rightful place as a major treasure in Colchester’s wealth of Roman Heritage and visitor attractions.
“I would encourage as many people as possible to have their say in these consultations.”
The consultations ended on 8 March 2021.