LONG-AWAITED plans to regenerate Colchester’s historic Jumbo water tower look set to take a big step forward.

The Colchester and North East Essex Building Preservation Trust has reached a deal with owner Paul Flatman to bring the building back into use after 25 years.

The trust plans to create a split level restaurant, while the former water tank will become a venue hire space alongside a heritage museum area.

A new floor will be inserted above the top level of brick arches to house a reception area and gift shop.

The former engineers’ room at the top of the building will become a bar.

Trust bosses have now submitted a bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund as they prepare to fully develop their plans.

Gazette: Michael Cameron jumbo inside pic

Picture: Michael Cameron

If the application is successful, work could begin in two years.

Simon Hall MBE, trust chairman, said: “Everything about the project is big and our Heritage Lottery Fund application is a step on what will be a long journey to save this magnificent piece of Victorian industrial heritage for Colchester and the nation.

"Jumbo is recognised as the most important municipal water tower in the country and is testament to the skills of the Victorian engineers who built it in 1883.

"Since it ceased to be used as a water tower in 1987, it has sadly been standing idle and in 1993 it was put on the national Buildings at Risk register.

“Clearly, Jumbo has a big place in the hearts of many people.

“This first grant would allow us to develop the plans fully before we source additional funds for the conservation and restoration.”

If successful, a second bid would be made next year to secure funds for the work.

Mr Hall added: “If the second application is successful, the owner will grant the trust a long lease and we will have saved Jumbo.”

Tim Young (Lab), Colchester councillor regeneration, said: “This is the best chance for Jumbo.

“The council is very supportive of the bid, we just want to see a future for Jumbo and if they can get grant funding through that source it will be very good news.

“I think their plans are very exciting. It is just unfortunate we cannot give them financial support.”

Darius Laws, Castle ward councillor and leader of Colchester Conservatives, added: “Jumbo preserved with a catering facility in the sky represents a massive opportunity for Colchester.

“Digital shopping and changing consumer habits mean we must ensure Colchester realises the potential from its heritage assets - Jumbo is iconic on our skyline and could be our Eiffel Tower.”

Sir Bob Russell, High Steward of Colchester, said it was good news for Jumbo, but questioned whether the Heritage Lottery Fund would be able to consider the application.

He said: “There is a question over whether it has got its ducks in order.

“The Heritage Lottery Fund would not normally grant to a building which is in private ownership.

"There would have to be a legal arrangement whereby members of the public are guaranteed access for a sizeable number of years.”

“But it does appear progress is being made and the trust are to be thanked.”

Brian Light, chairman of the Balkerne Tower Trust, also welcomed the plans.