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Firstsite fence 'makes it look like Belmarsh'
A FENCE installed around the edge of the Firstsite gallery has been described as “like Belmarsh prison”.
The barrier has been put up between the multi-million pound art gallery and land towards Priory Street set to become a school playing field.
Plans have been in place for the St Thomas More’s Primary School, in Priory Street, to use the site as a playing field for many years, but the fence has just been put in place and has not met with a good reaction.
Riverside estate resident Ray Hollingsworth said: “It is nothing like the architect’s vision and it looks like a prison.
“It is an unbelievable eyesore – like a high security area at Belmarsh.
“In the future there might be benches and trees in, and I understand it needs to be secure, but it was never supposed to look like this. This is not in keeping with the vision the people of Colchester were sold and I feel the people have been cheated.
“Is there an art gallery in the world with anything like this around it?”
Nick Barlow, councillor responsible for regeneration at Colchester Council, said: “It is balancing aesthetics and security.
“Firstsite, the council and the school will need to sit down and talk about the future and what we could put up there.
“At the moment it is getting the fence done as a priority.
There will be a lot more changes going on in that area, with the cinema and other plans too over the next few years, and we will have to see what happens.
“You don’t want to spend a lot of money on landscaping and design work if it then has to be taken out when something else moves into the St Botolph’s Quarter.”
Bridget Harris, headteacher at St Thomas More’s, said: “There has to be a security fence there and I think the council has done an excellent job of choosing a fence which will be easy to maintain and secure, because it has a duty to make sure it is safe.
“Firstsite makes a natural barrier, but, when it is all done, this will be a very secure area.
“You don’t want it falling down or being trampled on, it must be sustainable. The idea was always to soften it with some trees and things once it is done.
“The council has always had it in mind to make it more attractive, but you have to get the fence up first.
“It is nice it is see-through with large slats. You can see it is a field beyond the fence and this is a good compromise.”
A spokesman for Firstsite said it would be inappropriate for the gallery to comment as the fence was on council land.
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