THE team behind controversial plans to build 336 student flats says the development will bring an extra £2 million a year into the town.

Revised plans for Colchester’s new Cultural Quarter were submitted in December in the face of ongoing criticism from campaigners.

Developer Alumno has said the plans will provide a “major economic boost”, delivering “much needed jobs”.

Alumno Developments’ managing director David Campbell said: “Reports show the significant economic opportunity created by investing into this vacant site, bringing an estimated £2.7m spending to the area every year alongside around 40 new jobs.

“This is in addition to much-needed quality student housing for which there is clear demand, opening of a Colchester visitor point, and working with enterprises such as SPACE Studios to provide affordable creative space for the town’s artists that compliments what is already available.”

A report by Jeremy Leach Research Limited analysed the additional student spending on other Alumno schemes.

In Colchester, it was calculated 336 new students will spend £1.9 million per year.

The additional investment and footfall will be focused on Queen Street, which has been struggling since the bus station closed.

The 87-bed hotel, providing 25 jobs, is also expected to bring in £840,000 a year.

Another report found the overall number of students in higher education in Colchester is expected to grow in the coming years.

Alumno Developments’ Natalie Greig said: “Higher education in Colchester is expected to expand. More students means more demand for accommodation.

“Our plans deliver this and meet an identified need. Estimates show around 400 students already live in the town centre.”

However, leading campaigners such as Dorian Kelly say a community will never be created from the development.

In a letter to the Gazette, he said he was told by a source Colchester Council is handing a 250-year lease to Alumno Student (Essex) Ltd for the former bus station site.

He said: “By the year 2267 when Colchester gets [the land] back I will be long dead, so will my children and my children’s children.

“Twenty five different councils will have come and gone.

“The student building will have been demolished and replaced with something else maybe five times with whatever is the hot development project at the time.

“And for what? About a one-off million pounds they can’t even use for social care or to empty bins.

“There will never be a chance of a bus station, or a town square market place or a concert hall or anything to attract visitors or preserve our heritage.”

Tim Young (Lab) councillor responsible for business and culture in Colchester, said the council was neither able to confirm nor deny the allegations as they were commercially sensitive.

He said: “We are not able to confirm whether the lease has been handed over. The demolition is part of the negotiation so we are unable to confirm this.

“We are still negotiating with Essex County Council about the covenant and we can say those discussions are coming to a conclusion. We should have an answer within the next week.”

The plans were due to go to the planning committee in November, but were dropped and revised. The new plans will go to the planning committee in the next few months.