I should like to reply to last week’s letter complaining that both Colchester and Essex Councils were not doing enough to support our town centre businesses.

No one would deny that the with the advent of the internet and out of town retail centres the mix of businesses that thrive in Colchester’s historic heart will change.

The town must now offer more than just a mix of retail outlets to attract visitors in the numbers that it needs to thrive.

Investment continues to flow in, following the massive renovation of Fenwicks, three new restaurants have opened nearby, whilst retailers have such as Hotel Chocolate have also opened up.

Gazette: What the new cinema could look like

At the other end of town the Curzon cinema is taking shape and large scale redeployment of St Nicholas Square including The George expansion sees yet more signs of growth.

It was therefore sad to see Firstsite pilloried when it has achieve a 24 per cent increase this year in visitor numbers attracting 110k visitors.


Picture: Essex County Council 

Coupled with the growth in visitors to Castle Park and the announcement of further big name attractions there this year it would be harsh not to recognise the contribution of the council too in these successes.

Nor it is the council alone that promotes the retail attractions.

Colchester Presents, a collaboration of businesses large and small, have worked together to stage events with have drawn big crowds throughout the year.

Of course more can be done and that it why the council is supporting those keen to see a Business Improvement District set up here.

Finally can I address the points about homelessness.

The only long term solution is to build more affordable accommodation for rent.

Recognising that with the average Colchester property costing 9 times the average salary buying a property is not an option for many.

Colchester Council was proud to have built the first new council houses for a generation.

Then the Government stopped us borrowing the money to build any more new homes.

Subsequently it stated the country needed to increase to 300k a year the number of properties to be built.

But whilst it is prepared to offer large subsidies to housebuilders it will not allow Colchester Council to borrow the money to build the homes Colchester’s homeless need.

Whilst I and many other Council Leaders of all parties have raised this point not only with our MP’s, but also Housing Ministers, we still can’t tackle the problem which continues to get worse.

Councillor Paul Smith, Liberal Democrat 
St Anne’s and St John’s Ward
Leader of the Council