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ARCHAEOLOGISTS are having to work on an alternative plan to get a heritage centre for Colchester’s Roman circus.

Colchester Archaeological Trust has been seeking an investor to help it buy an old Army building to convert into a tourist attraction and educational base for visitors to the ancient chariot-racing arena.

But with no success so far, and with £200,000 in the bank from a Gazette-backed public appeal, bosses have decided they need to forge ahead regardless.

Director Philip Crummy revealed the trust was considering ways of getting the project back on track without the £275,000 it was hoped the investor would contribute.

He said: “There are some options we are exploring and we are expecting to be able to make a decision, as to what happens next, by December 10.

“We are anxious to resolve the thing, but we are having difficulty. We thank people for their patience.”

Mr Crummy did not reveal what the options were, but admitted money was tight, adding: “It’s all on a knife-edge.”

The old Army building, in Le Cateau Road, known as the sergeants’ mess, is wanted for the heritage centre because the starting gates of the Roman circus, discovered in 2004, are buried in its garden.

In addition to the appeal cash, the archaeological trust has one investor on board, Dr Georgene Wade, who will pay £200,000 to convert about a quarter of the building into a house.

A contribution from a second investor would have given the trust enough money to buy the site from developer Taylor Wimpey, with public access to the garden guaranteed as part of the deal.

Bill Hayton, who helped run the fundraising appeal, said the best option would have been to carry on collecting money.

He added: “The plan at the moment only allows for the bare minimum of visitor facilities.

“If the archaeological trust had kept the original fundraising team involved, we could have got the money to buy a bigger piece of the building.”

The trust was against a further fundraising campaign as it wanted investors to take on a stake in the building and share the cost of repair work.