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Plan to knock down shops and reveal St Botolph's Priory
CAMPAIGNERS believe they have spotted an opportunity to reveal a Colchester beauty spot and historic landmark to the public.
The entrance to St Botolph’s Church and Priory is via a narrow road and obscured by a row of shops and offices.
Three of the buildings – the former CO2 Clothing store, a long-derelict three-storey building owned by the NHS and a house behind them – are on the market for a combined £500,000.
John Acton, who owns the nearby Judge and Jury pub, believes the glory of the 12th century priory remains and its grounds could be restored if the buildings can be bought and knocked down.
He is appealing to the public to raise the funds.
Mr Acton said: “I’ve always thought it was criminal people were allowed to build modern buildings in front of historic places like this.
“This is one of our biggest assets in the town – it’s second only to the castle and it’s been hidden away.
“When the buildings went on sale, I thought it was an opportunity the town can’t let pass by.
“The first phase basically is to buy these two shops. The market at the moment is depressed, so here is the opportunity.”
The priory, for long a haven for drinkers and drug addicts, was given an £85,000 facelift by Colchester Council in 2010 in a bid to attract more visitors to the grounds.
David Poppleton, church warden at St Botolph’s, said: “The priory has been hidden for too long and a lot of people in Colchester don’t even know it’s here.
“Colchester has as many historic sites as a city like York, but we tend to cover them up and it’s sad really.”
Mr Acton, who has successfully raised funds to build a replica of famous Harwich ship the Mayflower, said local authorities were penniless, so it was up to the public to raise the funds.
He suggested the land could be turned into a memorial garden.
He added: “It’s got to be a community project – we’ve got to get a consortium together to see if we can pull it off.”
St Botolph’s Street traders voiced their support for the fledgling project.
Heidi Franklin, of sewing machine shop AJ Franklin, said: “People say they don’t want to come shopping in Colchester because they say ‘what else am I going to do when I’m there?’ “Colchester was the jewel of the area, but it’s not now. This might be a way of making Colchester a jewel again.”
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