Date issued: 17 July 2019
Colchester Borough Council has today released information about its pre-lease agreement with developers Alumno to help ensure transparency ahead of a planning inquiry in October.
The council’s planning committee in February unanimously rejected plans by Alumno for 336-student rooms, an 87-bed Travelodge hotel, retail units and public open space to be created off Queen Street. The developers have now submitted an appeal against this decision which is scheduled to start on 16 October.
While the council will fully support the committee’s decision, it has released information on the pre-lease agreement with Alumno to ensure it is as open as possible ahead of the inquiry.
Under this agreement, which is dependent on the planning appeals process:
- there are two leases between the council and Alumno - one for the student site and one for the hotel site. The lease period is 250 years.
- a price of £980,881 has been agreed for the leases which would be used to invest in services and initiatives benefiting the whole borough.
- the £40m investment by Alumno could also have supported the local economy through creating new jobs and encouraging more people to visit the centre of Colchester.
- the contract is not invalidated by the refusal at planning committee but would be if appeals were refused at every stage of the planning process.
- the only way the council could withdraw or terminate the lease with Alumno without any consequences would be if the developer were in material breach of the contract or became insolvent.
The council’s planning committee refused planning permission for the scheme due to concerns about its design, overdevelopment, disabled access and lack of public consultation.
Councillor David King, Portfolio Holder for Resources, said: “We have an important balance to strike and must do so without prejudice to the appeals process.
“We will honour our agreement with Alumno, if they are successful, mindful of the benefits and income that brings.
“We have already invested millions of pounds in St Botolph’s Quarter, but we respect the different views on the merits of this scheme. We will provide transparency, to be as open as possible about the agreement with Alumno so everyone has the facts before we go into the planning inquiry.
“Due to commercial sensitivities, we can’t publish the whole agreement, but we want to answer the key questions people have raised. The agreement will of course be held pending the appeal and throughout the inquiry the council will, as is again our duty, vigorously and fully supporting the decision of our planning committee.”
At the inquiry, which will be heard by planning inspector Melvyn Middleton, the main parties’ legal representatives will be able to present their cases and cross examine any other witnesses. Based on the evidence provided during the inquiry the inspector will provide a written decision several weeks after the end of the hearing.