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Council leaders have pledged to continue plans to transform an historic yet undervalued part of Colchester into a thriving and attractive gateway to the town despite news that a £649,000 funding bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has been unsuccessful.
Colchester Borough Council had hoped that HLF support would secure its vision for the regeneration of the North Bridge Conservation Enhancement Area (NBCEA) - a project area which extends the town centre conservation area from the foot of North Hill to The Albert roundabout.
Project works were set to include the re-instatement of an historic avenue of trees; grants for owners to repair historic buildings, some of which date back to the medieval period; refurbishment, paving and lighting of the listed North Bridge; a makeover for the 19th century drinking fountain and installation of interpretation panels to provide local history insights along the route.
Cllr Martin Goss, Colchester Borough Council Portfolio Holder for Waste, Environment and Transportation, said: "Although we are disappointed by the Heritage Lottery Fund's decision, we still believe this area is worthy of conservation area status and improvement works. Our work will continue to bring the vision to reality for what will become a transformative project for all those who visit, live and work in the Colchester - creating a welcoming gateway from North Station into town and instilling a real sense of pride for all those who live and work in the area."
Essex County Council and rail operator Greater Anglia are core supporters of the project and, together with Colchester Borough Council and local charities, have pledged to continue to back the project. The project is part of 'Fixing the Link', a partnership between Colchester Borough Council, Greater Anglia, Essex County Council and designers Dallas Pierce Quintero. It seeks to create a more welcoming and positive first impression of Colchester for those arriving in the town by train and encourage more people to walk the one-mile route, while encouraging visitors to stay longer, shop and use the businesses along the North Station Road corridor.
An Essex County Council spokesperson said: "We are disappointed not to receive HLF funding. However we will continue to work together to contribute to promoting our respective Council's aims and objectives for improving neighbourhood connectivity and encouraging sustainable modes of travel.
"Providing a sense of place at a human scale can hugely influence peoples' willingness to walk and given the rich historic and cultural heritage of Colchester, our joint "fixing the link" encourages sustainable travel between Colchester Station and the town centre.
"We aim to make the urban environment more attractive and of great benefit for those who currently walk the route as well as encouraging more people to walk and cycle, enjoying the local environment and supporting the local services."
The project also has the support of Colchester Civic Society, Colchester Institute, North Primary School, North Essex Building Preservation Trust, University of Essex, Colchester and Ipswich Museums, Colchester Presents and many building owners and tenants in the North Bridge Area.
Cllr Goss added: "We've had such an encouraging response from property owners, residents, local organisations and businesses that, despite today's news, we intend to continue working closely with the community to deliver the benefits that this regeneration project will bring to make the whole area more pleasant place to shop, eat and do business."