A CHARITY which wants to buy Colchester's famous water tower and restore it has launched a public appeal for donations.

The Balkerne Tower Trust is appealing for cash to enable it to bid for Jumbo which is being sold at auction on May 29.

No reserve has been put on the Grade II* listed building which means it could be sold for as little as a penny.

However, the cost of repairing the building will run into hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Jumbo is being sold by developer George Braithwaite who has twice had his planning applications to convert the building refused by Colchester Council.

Mr Braithwaite has spent £1.5 million buying the water tower and paying for plans to be drawn up to transform it into flats, offices, a restaurant, museum and viewing tower.

The cost of converting it would have been in excess of a further £3 million - money Mr Braithwaite did not expect to recoup for 20 years.

However, after the latest refusal, he said he is now going to walk away from the project.

The trust, which onsistently opposed Mr Braithwaite's plans, says it wants to buy Jumbo and it has drawn up a business strategy.

For more on this story, see today's Gazette and tomorrow's Essex County Standard.