LONG-AWAITED plans for a £70 million town centre shopping precinct have been dropped.

Vineyard Gate has been on successive Colchester Council administrations’ priority lists since plans were first mooted in 2002.

But it has been held up due to the global economic downturn and despite repeated attempts to resurrect the plans, council bosses have now admitted the high-profile scheme has been dropped.


The Gazette has already revealed the project has had to go back to the drawing board as a result of the controversial Tollgate Village plans being given the go ahead by a Government planning inspector.

READ MORE: 'Shopping precinct plans are 'back to the drawing board after Tollgate blow'

But speaking during a meeting of all councillors on Wednesday night, authority leader Paul Smith said admitted the scheme is now dead.

He said: “It is quite true that following the Tollgate Village decision, retail development in Colchester does seem to have seen a downturn.


“As a result I suspect a large retail development is not likely to be taking place in that area in the foreseeable future.”

Mr Smith did add he hoped the area could still be rejuvenated given the investment the council has already made in it, including setting aside £5 million to buy up land in Osborne Street and St Botolph’s Street which would be used in the Vineyard Gate development.

But Mr Smith said the properties which have already been bought have tenants in them so the council can continue to take a rental income while an alternative blueprint is found, which could include a residential scheme.

The council leader added: “Had the Tollgate appeal not been upheld, the development at Vineyard Gate would have been a very high priority for us but we we will certainly be looking at other ways to develop that area.”

He also denied accusations from opposition councillors over his administration’s “failure”.

Mr Smith added: “Let’s be fair, the Conservatives had an administration during the time Vineyard Gate has been on the agenda.

“It is unfair to criticise the current administration for the downturn in the retail economy.

“It is difficult to be saying: ‘This is not going to happen,’ but it is unfair to blame this administration for what has been a difficult 15 year project.”