A PETITION calling for a rethink over rejected plans for a major leisure park already has more than 1,700 signatures.

A majority of planning committee members on Colchester Council turned down the controversial plans for Tollgate Village at Stanway last Thursday.

The decision prompted area MP Priti Patel to brand the Lib Dem/Labour/ Independent controlled council as "rotten, incompetent and spineless".

The online petition called "We need a rethink on Tollgate Village Planning decision" launched hours afterwards.

The person behind the petition, known on Twitter as @Colchesterviews, has declined to reveal their identity or speak directly to the Gazette.

However, the petition states: "We believe the town centre can thrive with Tollgate Village attracting thousands of extra people into Colchester.

"Eight councillors voted against this plan, despite, late last year, this project given a provisional green light.

"That's not all, two councillors, who voted for, in the original meeting could not attend last [Thursday] night, and were replaced by two others, who voted against.

"Local councillors claim they know public feeling, but we think they are very wrong on this and as a result, if you feel the same, please sign, and pass on our petition.

"We will present this petition to the council, even if nothing changes, it will at least show these people how out of touch they are with local feeling."

The Tollgate Partnership, which is being the Tollgate Village plans, is not connected to the petition and praised Ms Patel's support.

It added: “As the result of this decision our Borough will now stagnate for an unknown period of time until further economic growth and investment comes on stream. This is unlikely to happen in the short term as there are no other sites in the Borough that would generate 1,000 jobs. Northern Gateway, Vineyard Gate and the Curzon cinema, Colchester Council's pet projects, are no closer to being delivered than Tollgate Village and none would have the economic benefits that our innovative development could have for our growing borough.

"After so many years of detailed talks with CBC’s officers, including delivering a joint vision for the area, we cannot wait for the Local Plan as the process takes so long that it stifles economic growth. If we did wait, by 2017 when the plan is supposed to be adopted, it will almost immediately be out of date. The plan is purely set out to guide councillors, not to proscribe the decision making, growth and job creation."

Council leader Paul Smith has insisted it was not biased against Tollgate Village because its own Northern Gateway leisure development includes plans for rival leisure facilities, restaurants and a cinema to be built near the Weston Homes Community Stadium.

However, he said the cinema part of the Tollgate Village plans carried uncertainty whereas Cineworld has confirmed it's opening a cinema at the Northern Gateway.

In some years' time, the cinema element at Tollgate might not be financially viable enough to go ahead, he said.

"Market conditions change," he added.

Only four of the 12 councillors at Thursday’s planning committee meeting voted to back the plan – Tories Roger Buston, Pauline Hazell, Brian Jarvis and Patricia Moore.

The Tollgate Partnership has not yet decided if it will appeal the decision.