PLANS to build four-storey apartment blocks in the middle of Colchester’s former garrison have been branded an embarrassment.
Historians and architects fear a proposed redevelopment of the garrison’s old headquarters in Flagstaff Road will have a damaging impact on nearby St John’s Abbey Gate.
Taylor Wimpey has applied to renovate much of the 19th century site, including administration buildings and homes set aside for top officers.
It has also applied to knock down some of the buildings and replace them with developments, including two, four-storey blocks, each of 30 flats.
In total, 137 homes, mostly flats, are proposed.
The Building Preservation Trust has objected to the bid, describing it as an embarrassment that could never be undone.
David Balcombe, chairman, said the 15th century Abbey Gate was the town’s second most important historic monument, behind Colchester Castle.
He said: “We think more attention ought to be put into the quality of the setting of the Abbey Gate as a building of distinction within the borough “There’s nothing wrong with the architecture, but it’s the wrong scheme in this location.
Built somewhere else, it would look fine.
“There’s a challenge for the local authority to get the best possible scheme they can negotiate and this scheme falls woefully short of that.”
The garrison masterplan, approved by Colchester Council in 2000, set the land aside for 117 homes, along with 40,000ft of commercial space.
The new proposal would also see more buildings demolished than originally envisaged.
Andrew Phillips, Colchester historian, said he understood many of the buildings could not be preserved and that developers had to turn a profit.
He said: “The key word is sensitivity.
“There has to be a balance between the need of the developer to maximise sales and the fact that it is our town, our garrison, our future and our skyline.”
A Taylor Wimpey spokesman said its proposals represented a fantastic opportunity to bring historic military buildings back into active use, through careful restoration, while creating an exciting collection of contemporary homes. He said: “We have worked in partnership with English Heritage and Colchester Council to ensure our proposed scheme recognises the heritage of this important site, including by demarking the ancient Roman Circus located partly within the site. Taylor Wimpey is selling very well in Colchester and across Essex.
“Should our planning application be approved, this development will help to fulfil continuing demand for high-quality new homes in the area.”
Colchester Council is due to rule on the proposals in the New Year.