doc

THE Gazette has helped secure a major victory just three days after joining the campaign to save Colchester’s Roman circus.

Developer Taylor Wimpey has agreed a month’s extension to the deadline to find £750,000 to create a heritage centre on the site of the ancient arena’s starting gates.

Bosses have also pledged £10,000 towards the cause.

In a separate boost, campaigners have revealed the total promised by donors has jumped to £85,000 – up from £76,000 on Tuesday.

There are now 35 days to get the rest of the funds to buy the Victorian Sergeants’ Mess, where the circus starting gates are buried in the garden, to serve as a heritage centre.

About £500,000 of that is expected to come from private investors, who want to buy part of the building to convert into flats, and from Colchester Archaeological Trust, which plans to set up offices above the visitor attraction.

Taking into account Taylor Wimpey’s pledge, £105,000 is still needed through donations.

Simon Brown, managing director of Taylor Wimpey East London, said: “We welcome and fully support the campaign to ensure the local community takes ownership of this historic site and the Sergeants’ Mess.

“We are happy to extend the fundraising deadline as well as pledging £10,000 towards the target.

“We hope campaigners understand, as a major contributor to community life in Colchester – through the ongoing provision of many new homes and millions of pounds of funding for schools, roads and amenities – we feel it is only appropriate we also contribute to conserving the town’s amazing history.

“We share local interest in conserving these fascinating remains, and our homebuilding plans do not conflict with their wider preservation.”

Wendy Bailey, chairman of Destination Colchester, said: “It’s a start, but we would like at least another nought added to it.

“We look forward to meeting up with representatives from Taylor Wimpey as soon as possible for further discussions.”

Philip Crummy, director of the Colchester Archaeological Trust, said: “I think it’s brilliant that Taylor Wimpey are prepared to help us.

“It would be nice if it was a bit more, but the one month extra is very good news in particular.”

Colchester MP Bob Russell announced the extension at a campaign launch event at Colchester Town Hall last night.

He phoned Mr Brown earlier yesterday to ask if he would extend the deadline in line with the Gazette’s campaign.

Mr Russell said: “I think this is a sign we are moving in the right direction and there is goodwill all round.”