People share their thoughts on the city centre

PUBLISHED: 21 September 2023

More than 2,000 people in Colchester have had their say on the city’s future – and they’re calling for better shops and more green spaces to improve their home.

The Future of Colchester survey, carried out by Colchester City Council and Essex County Council, asked a series of questions about visiting the city centre, feeling safe, air pollution, sustainable transport, as well as ideas around what would make people visit more.

It showed that nearly half of respondents visited the city centre at least once a week (42%) and that 40% said they felt safe in the city centre.

A full report will be ready in the coming months. However, key findings showed that people would welcome a greater range of shops in the city centre, including more independent retailers. They also called for more policing and tackling anti-social behaviour.

Top suggestions for improving the experience in the city centre include:
  • Increased range of retail
  • Alternative uses for empty shops and buildings
  • More independent shops
  • Further regeneration and general ‘tidying up’
  • More green spaces

The survey also revealed that 40% of respondents strongly agreed or agreed that they feel safe in the city centre. The top suggestions for making Colchester feel even safer include:
  • More policing
  • Better lighting
  • Less traffic
  • Wider pavements

Cllr Kevin Bentley, Leader of Essex County Council, said: “Thank you to the more than 2,000 people in Colchester who took the opportunity to have their say on the future of our city. It’s great to see that we are already making steps to action some of the things people consider most important, but we are determined to continue improving Colchester as a destination for residents, visitors and businesses.
“As part of our plans to regenerate St Botolph’s Circus, we plan to include more green spaces, as well as supporting a safer, greener and healthier approach to transport by encouraging people to reduce short car journeys and use more sustainable alternatives where possible.”

Cllr Mark Cory, Deputy Leader of Colchester City Council, said: “Firstly, I am pleased that Colchester residents engaged in this survey in decent numbers and with honesty and passion. It does not surprise me that there are a mix of views, with some quite critical of the city.
“I was talking to a resident recently about the economic downturn and the issues faced in towns across the country, with empty shops and rising numbers of homelessness. Sadly, government policy is not focusing on these important issues. We need more support for our high streets, business rate reform in order to tax the likes of Amazon properly and gives a leg up to the local independent traders. We have few levers to pull at a local level, but we are doing everything we can to make our city centre a place for new businesses, entertainment and enjoyment, as well as being clean and safe. We need to work with partners like Essex County Council, the Police, and the BID, in order to answer the concerns and wishes raised in the survey. The key point here is that we have asked the question, and we are listening to the answers.

“The good news is that we are working on all top improvement ideas already. The Business Improvement District is doing a fantastic job of attracting new businesses and using the few empty shops we have for the Colchester Fringe and other events; our Neighbourhood team hold city centre Community Action Days helping to tidy up areas that need a bit of TLC and we’re working with Essex Police to tackle anti-social behaviour, but we know there is still more to do. I hope residents can work with us, visiting the town centre more and supporting the local shops and entertainment venues we cherish.”

Once the full consultation report is ready, the City Centre Masterplan will be considered by Colchester City Council’s Local Plan committee in December 2023 and St Botolph's Circus Promoters Comment published.

Page last reviewed: 21 September 2023


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