RIVAL developers have accused Colchester Council of double standards after planning bosses waved through plans for a leisure park and cinema on their own land.

The Tollgate Partnership, whose own bid for a £70 million retail-led centre featuring a cinema was twice thrown out by the council, believe the decision to move forward with plans for a huge leisure park at Northern Gateway may come under threat under a judicial review.

Plans for the Stanway retail park were subject to a two week inquiry after the Tollgate Partnership appealed against one of the rejections and a decision is expected by August 7.

Director Jayne Gee said: “The advice from our barristers that should you decide to grant permission, then the decision is liable to be quashed in judicial review proceedings.

“For example, in his closing statement to the Tollgate Village Inquiry, Sasha White QC acting for Colchester Council, stated when referring to the town centre’s Odeon and Curzon cinemas, that ‘a major new multiplex will have ramifications for their health and enduring survival of the town centre Odeon.’

“Yet council officers have chosen to take the opposite view in respect of the Northern Gateway application.”

Mrs Gee also questioned why a no poaching clause on Tollgate Village, relating to town centre shops, was dismissed by council officers and their legal team as being “toothless and meaningless”, yet was recommended for Northern Gateway.

Throughout the planning meeting on Thursday, councillors were repeatedly told to treat the Northern Gateway scheme on its own merits, not to compare it to Tollgate Village and ignore the fact the council could end up making profit from the leisure scheme.

Planning committee member Paul Hazell (Con) voted in favour of the Northern Gateway scheme, but said she felt the Tollgate Village developers had been treated unfairly by the council.

She said: “I have a problem with the way it has been treated and the historical treatment of Tollgate Village.

“It is inevitable they will be joined together.

“I was not happy with the way the council dealt with those applicants.

“I can see nothing wrong with this application but to pass it without members being able to speak of their disquiet only gives the public one view.

“I’m not particularly happy with the way Tollgate Village was dealt with this and compared to how this has been dealt with.

“I hope when the Tollgate Village comes back it will get the same consideration and care.”