Council bosses have defended plans to build an elephant statue branded “a joke” by the town’s MP.

Colchester Council, Essex County Council and Greater Anglia have joined together for the scheme.

They are set to pay £200,000 to put the “wayfinding sculpture” on the Albert roundabout at Cowdray Avenue, Colchester, and for new lighting, landscaping and improved CCTV from Colchester Station.

In total £77,520 will be spent on creating the sculpture and a plaque, a further £19,103 will be spent on the groundwork and installation of the elephant and CCTV.

Plants and laying new grass will cost £7,795 and new CCTV cameras and pole will cost £3,830.

Work on the new lights and maintenance is expected to cost £24,900.

The remaining cash will be split between the cost of the planning application, the original design work, project management and engineering work.

It also includes money budgeted for additional maintenance and unforeseen costs.

The elephant was chosen as tales suggest Emperor Claudius’s arrived in Colchester with a herd of elephants after the Roman invasion in 43 AD.

But while some praised the vision and move for better lighting and CCTV, many were less impressed at the sculpture plans.

Colchester MP Will Quince branded the move “unbelievable”.

On social media he said: “Surely this is some kind of joke?

“If you needed any more evidence that Colchester’s Labour / Lib Dem council needs the boot in May, check this out.

“They claim to be at breaking point yet want a giant yellow steel elephant on a roundabout to encourage people to walk into town. £200,000 unbelievable.”

Martin Goss, the council’s infrastructure boss, defended the plans.

He said: “This has full Colchester cross party support. It has the full support of Kevin Bentley and Essex County Council and Greater Anglia have put some money in.

“Everybody is on board with this project.

“I am disappointed our MP has tried to make it political. He has now been given all the facts and he is fully aware everyone is on board.”

Mr Goss said the whole project was about regenerating the North Station area and driving the economy.

“This is the next step of a long term masterplan,” he said. “It is about improving the area and making it more secure and safe.

“The cost of the project isn’t just an elephant.”

Mr Goss said since the first stage of the project businesses were already enjoying the benefits of increased footfall.

But Kevin Bentley, infrastructure boss at Essex County Council, said he had never expressed a view on the elephant sculpture.

He said: “I was surprised to read that senior Colchester Councillors believe I am in full support of this proposed elephant sculpture. I am not as it currently stands. 

“Whilst discussions with officers of this authority have taken place, I have never expressed a view on the sculpture, nor have its detail ever been discussed with me.

“While I fully endorse public art, there is a time and place. Right now with difficult financial times facing local government we need to ensure our money is spent on services.

“ECC has contributed to the wider scheme of Fixing the Links which is aimed at improving routes and directions for pedestrians and cyclists and to help tourism in the town. This is essential and helps with future sustainable transport. 

“Colchester Council is leading this project and I would urge those councillors in charge to consider carefully how they use public funds to ensure maximum benefit.”