Council seeks ambitious enterprise to ‘breathe new life’ into landmark community building

PUBLISHED: 1 October 2020

Date issued: 05 October 2020

Colchester Borough Council would like to hear from community-based organisations, businesses or groups from across the borough and beyond, who are interested in taking over management of the Abbey Field Centre and breathe new life into the landmark community building.

The spacious and well-connected property, formally the Garrison Gym, is located at Circular Road South in the heart of Colchester's Garrison and Shrub End communities. It will become available from January 2021 to lease for up to 25 years. The property is currently occupied by The Mercury Theatre.

Steve Mannix, Executive Director at the Mercury Theatre, said

“The Abbey Field Centre is an exceptional creative space – large, light, flexible and stylish! We’ve developed some exciting theatre there, using the space to rehearse, work and entertain. It’s a hugely versatile and attractive building and will become a real asset to any ambitious, creative organisation.”
The impressive former gymnasium building, which dates from 1860, was once owned by the Ministry of Defence and was transferred to Colchester Borough Council in 2010 as a benefit to all Colchester residents. It underwent an extensive restoration programme in 2013 and is now suitable for a range of purposes including: community meetings, activities and conferences; childcare and nursery provision; skills training and education classes; social, cultural and leisure activities, and medical and health facilities. 

A special viewing day will be held on Thursday 29th October between 9am and 1pm to give interested organisations an opportunity to tour the site and ask questions of Colchester Borough Council’s Estates Team, managed by Colchester Amphora Trading Ltd.

Councillor Michael Lilley, Colchester Borough Council Portfolio Holder for Communities, Wellbeing and Public Safety, said:

“We’re inviting community-focused enterprises to come and look at this beautifully-refurbished and versatile facility, to see how it might give them the space to grow and prosper."

“This is an exciting opportunity and we’re looking for proposals to sustain the future of this wonderful building and secure its place as a valued community asset. I look forward to seeing the ideas that come forward.”

The fully-accessible building can cater for up to 220 people whether together in one space or within smaller zones. The facility provides:

  • approximately 649 sqm of utility space 
  • a semi-sprung floor in the large main hall
  • a fully functional kitchen with a serving hatch into the main hall
  • a dedicated delivery road 
  • electricity, gas and water supplies 
  • 28 car parking spaces (including 3 disability spaces) 
  • a 28sqm ground floor office provision
  • 48sqm first floor space overlooking the main hall 
  • Gigabit broadband connectivity

Colchester Borough Council will grant a lease of the premises at a peppercorn rent, with the future tenant required to carry out all necessary repairs and maintenance throughout the term of the lease.

Full information can be found at Expression of Interest invitation for Abbey Field Community Centre.

Viewing Day


Interested parties are invited to view Abbey Field Community Centre on Thursday 29th October between 9am and 1pm. Viewing is aimed at organisations, their partners and their professional teams who may wish to submit an Expression of interest. The deadline for Expressions of Interest is midday Wednesday 4th November 2020.

All viewings must be booked in advance, due to Covid 19 restrictions. To arrange an appointment contact Emma Lamond on 07950 243904 or email

Page last reviewed: 1 October 2020


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