Date issued: 19 January 2021
Members of Colchester Borough Council’s Cabinet are set to discuss the next steps in the redevelopment of the former bus station at Queen Street when they meet on 27 January.
The Alumno scheme for 336 student rooms, an 87-bed hotel, retail units and public open space, which was approved on planning appeal last year, is set to deliver a £40 million inward investment and employment boost at a time when the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic is set to have a significant impact on the town centre and local businesses.
The Cabinet will be asked to authorise appropriation of the land for planning purposes after considering the effects on third party rights. For most, these entail the temporary removal of local access rights through the 2.6-acre Queen Street site while construction takes place, after which they will be reinstated with an improved space for the public to enjoy. Statutory compensation will be provided if mitigating steps are not sufficient.
Appropriation is used by planning authorities to bring sites forward for development, if necessary, but issues are often reduced or solved by discussions with those affected, which is the approach being taken by the council. The Cabinet will be updated on progress and mitigations and asked to carefully consider written representations or objections when arriving at its decision.
Cllr David King, Portfolio Holder for Business and Resources, said: “The Alumno scheme is a key part of the wider St. Botolph’s regeneration masterplan, which includes the previous investments at Firstsite, the Curzon cinema and the creative business centre at 37 Queen Street.
“As well as the immediate and direct benefits of the student accommodation and hotel developments, the scheme will provide a powerful catalyst to other, adjacent schemes, such as the proposed grow-on space for creative and digital businesses and digital working hub in the former bus garage. And through the increased footfall and vitality generated, it should help stimulate investment in the nearby Priory Walk shopping centre and help sustain other retail and hospitality businesses deeply impacted by the current crisis.
“The scheme will also deliver up to 60 long-term jobs and 300 jobs during the construction phase. This will be hugely helpful, when so many jobs are being lost and when we know the economic shocks of the pandemic will be with us for years to come. These students, their families and new visitors will bring between £2m-£3m a year into the local economy.
“There have been understandable concerns about regeneration on this site but done well there are benefits also. Both the Alumno and grow-on scheme will significantly improve access to, and visibility of, the significant historic assets nearby, most notably the Roman Wall, in turn improving our tourism offer.
“Landmark developments up and down the country have been through a tough time in the last few years, even before the pandemic struck, but in that period the council has continued to invest in the St Botolph’s Quarter and is currently pursuing even greater investment through the Town Deal fund, which will enable big improvements to be made across the whole town.
“I look forward to the development as the next significant step in the regeneration of the St Botolph's area but regret the inconvenience construction will cause for some nearby residents and businesses. We are looking at the concerns this raises. If Cabinet agrees we proceed after careful review of objections and representations, it will be alive to the benefits to footfall and vibrancy, to businesses and the many they employ at this terrible time. And we will be determined to ensure those affected are given help with mitigation, alternative access and statutory compensation.”