A CRACKDOWN on aggressive begging has been praised by the owners of a shopping precinct.

The owners of Priory Walk in Colchester, an area of town renowned for being neglected, are pleased Colchester Council has taken steps to reduce the incidents of aggressive begging in the town centre.

Persistent beggar Thomas Roy, who repeatedly asked for money despite not being homeless, was recently banned from the town centre for two years.

Jonathan Reubin, chartered surveyor for Priory Walk, said it was one of the positive steps taking place to improve the area.

He said: “We trust the council will be able to sustain this reduction thereby making the town centre a better place to visit and shop.

“The issue of rough sleeping needs to be tackled to improve the experience of evening visits to the town centre, especially around the Curzon cinema.”

He has also completed the letting of the former Dr Scholl shop to a window blinds company, which will open in the coming months.

A planning application has also been submitted to turn the large store at the entrance of Priory Walk into a coffee shop called Triple Two Coffee.

Mr Reubin added: “We now have a bit of interest being shown for a lease on the former St Helena Hospice shop and plans are being drafted for the remodelling of the former Peacocks store and its redundant upper floor.

“This, is somewhat dependent upon Colchester Council and their chosen developer bringing to fruition a viable scheme on the St Botolph’s site that meets with the original blueprint for that area and a workable pedestrian link to Priory Walk.

“Colchester Council also has to resolve the land’s covenant issue with Essex County Council.”

Essex County Council bosses are in talks with Colchester Council about whether a covenant on land on Colchester’s Cultural Quarter can be lifted.

The covenant states it should only be used for a bus station, car park or any other statutory function of the council.

Alumno’s plans for providing student homes, a hotel and retail and leisure outlets are not considered statutory functions of any local authority.

However, Colchester Council bosses are confident the restriction can be lifted, as it was to make way for both Firstsite and the Curzon.

A decision is due to be made soon on the covenant.