COLCHESTER MP Sir Bob Russell has hit back at the criticisms from Jumbo owner George Braithwaite with his own stinging attack.

Sir Bob has been a long-standing opponent of plans to transform the Victorian water tower
into flats, offices, a restaurant and museum and is patron of the Balkerne Tower Trust pressure group.

He said: “We have a desire to preserve this unique example of Victorian municipal enterprise,
which is without equal in this country. It is really quite amazing there are those in our midst who
feel disfiguring it is somehow a good idea.

“It is a fact I amopposed to anything which damages the architectural heritage and integrity of this Grade II* listed building.

“We should be so proud to have this fine structure here in Britain’s oldest recorded town.

“We should regard it as a great asset.”

Sir Bob refuted the allegation he had put pressure on the Liberal Democrat councillors to throw out the application.

He said: “If I could direct the council in that way, we would still have a bus station and no visual arts facility.

“It is a ludicrous suggestion.”

However, he refused to confirm or deny if hehad contacted the Lib Dem councillors on the committee prior to the discussion.

He said: “I am not going to say if I did so or did not. It is an irrelevance.

“If it is political, how is it the councillors who voted against it were Lib Dem, Labour and Independent?

“The only people who voted for the scheme were Conservative.

“Labour and Lib Dem councillors have voted consistently for the past 15 years.”

Sir Bob said he had met Mr Braithwaite in the past.

He said: “He came to my office after acquiring Jumbo and I gave him my business card.

“He left me thinking we had done a deal. I recall saying, ‘We
have a great outcome for Jumbo, someone who will save it’.

“These plans were not just opposed by the Balkerne Tower Trust, but also English Heritage
and the Victorian Society.”