Have your say to enhance the ABRO site and protect the Roman Circus
PUBLISHED: 22 October 2021
The public is being invited to help strengthen protection of Colchester’s Roman Circus – the only known chariot-racing track in Britain and one of only a few unearthed in northern Europe – through shaping redevelopment of the site adjacent to it.
It follows a month-long consultation, last February, on an updated Roman Circus Management Plan and proposed extension of the Garrison Conservation Area to include the former Army Base Repair Organisation (ABRO) site.
The resulting Development Brief, to protect the surviving buildings associated with the former Le Cateau Barracks and the setting of the Circus, was adopted as Planning Guidance by the Local Plan Committee, in August, who also requested it be upgraded in status to a Supplementary Planning Document (SPD).
An SPD can be afforded more weight in decision making than planning guidance and ultimately enshrine greater protection for remaining heritage within the Local Plan.
Now, to comply with planning regulations, the public is being asked to take part in an additional consultation on a draft SPD, which has been amended to reflect many of the comments made earlier this year. This latest consultation runs until 5pm on Friday 19 November.
The ABRO site is complex and has several key constraints that need to be given careful consideration when it is redeveloped. An SPD will guide development and ensure full consideration is given to those constraints to encourage the best solutions when redeveloping the site.
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 of national importance such as Colchester Castle, the Balkerne Gate and the Town Walls.
Cllr Andrew Ellis, Colchester Borough Council’s Portfolio Holder for Housing & Planning, said: Colchester’s Roman Circus really can be said to be unequalled in the UK – an incomparable treasure in Colchester’s wealth of Roman Heritage and visitor attractions.
“It is therefore right that we do as much as we can to protect and enhance it for the benefit of future generations. The SPD will help to do that and sets out very clearly what our expectations from developers are. There should be no ambiguity here, we know that there are considerable constraints on a site such as this, and publishing this SPD consultation in advance of the site sale, ensures that any would-be purchasers are aware of the obligations that will come with its purchase.”
Once finalised, the SPD will provide a clear planning framework and vision for development of the site to deliver a genuinely high-quality residential scheme, clearly of the 21st century, which complements the area’s rich heritage, is strong in urban and landscape character, promotes sustainable travel, whilst protecting and enhancing the Scheduled Ancient Monument and its setting.