DESPITE first being mooted some 15 years ago, the Vineyard Gate jigsaw appears to be falling into place.

Not before time, some might say.

The scheme has been plagued by delays, put down to a less-than-glowing working relationship with a previous developer partner as well as the impact of the global economic downturn.

Initial multi-million pound schemes put forward for the area cited the need to attract a large anchor store to make the scheme viable.

But plans to attract big names never really got off the ground, despite both John Lewis and House of Fraser having been mooted.

Primark was also mentioned in the conversation but the bargain retailer ultimately opted to fill the void left by BHS in Lion Walk shopping centre - a ready-made retail unit.

Gazette: Looking back - an artist’s impression from 2010

Old plans - the 150,000 sq ft scheme was scrapped 

The 150,000 sq ft plans have appeared as scaled-down versions intermittently over the years but a large retail-led scheme was scrapped after planning permission was finally given for the controversial Tollgate Village scheme to go ahead in August 2017.

However, the new independent and boutique retail-led plans emerged in February and have been broadly welcomed.

But how likely is it to be different this time?

For one thing, the clock is ticking. The ruling alliance - made up the Liberal Democrats, Labour and the Highwoods Independent group - knows the pressure is on and it must deliver,

Especially given the increasing pressure from the Conservative opposition, which is just two seats short of an overall majority on the council.

Council bosses are now proposing a “multi-use” development featuring offices, flats, leisure uses and boutique shops.

It is also understood a number of development companies are interested in taking on the scheme and we’re told to expect an update on that before the end of the year.

Gazette: Vineyard Gate car park, and Micraline/MCS cabs in Osborne Street (opposite the bus station)..

Needs work - Vineyard Street car park is in need of an overhaul

These plans have been broadly welcomed across the political spectrum but they have not been immune from criticism, with one business boss accusing Colchester Council of “gambling” with taxpayers’ money.

Ron Levy, secretary of Colchester Retail and Business Association is also on record as saying it is unwise for the authority to push ahead with any plans or land buy-ups without a partner already on board.

But the council has been at pains to stress early plans must be put forward so prospective development partners know what kind of scheme is on the table.

Having bought up the building which has long been home to the popular Alishan Tandoori for £400,000, at the very least the vast majority of the land needed is in the hands of one organisation.

And there is no news on what the future could hold for the parcel of land used as a car park and owned by Lion Walk United Reformed Church behind the Brewers Arms pub.

Perhaps it is that which will be the final jigsaw in the puzzle.

For now, council bosses appear optimistic, but they know inaction will only lead to more questions and, crucially, even more delays.