AN engineering firm's old Colchester base could be bought from the Ministry of Defence in a bid to turn the town's Roman Circus Centre into an international tourist attraction.

More than 50 jobs were lost when Babcock, which maintains military vehicles and equipment, closed its Flagstaff Road site around the turn of the year.

However the MOD still owns the land, which is situated close to the Roman Circus Centre, in Roman Circus Walk, and Colchester Council has admitted the area could represent a "heritage related opportunity" for the authority when it comes to be disposed of by the Government.

The idea of buying the site was suggested by the town's High Steward Sir Bob Russell at a meeting of Colchester Council's Local Plan committee on Monday.

Sir Bob said: "My view is that this is an opportunity for the council to do something positive and serious about promoting the Roman Circus as a national and international tourist destination.

"It is an opportunity for the council to do what the city of York or city of Bath would do. They could put in a bid to acquire the workshops.

"The site points itself towards development, which may include some housing, but predominantly as somewhere the Roman Circus can develop like a space for coach tourists to park to walk the length of the circus.

"It is an opportunity for the council to prepare a planning brief in the same way Essex County Council did at the County Hospital site."

Gazette: Sir Bob Russell wants to see Colchester Council step inSir Bob Russell wants to see Colchester Council step in

A spokesman for Colchester Council said it was preparing a development brief for the Babcock site, which would guide any future work in the area.

He added: "The Roman Circus is a Scheduled Monument that extends across a number of sites, with the focus being the interpretation centre at Roman Circus House.

“The council continues to work through the development process, to provide public access and interpretation of the Monument as potential development sites come forward.

"This is in addition to the direct financial support already provided by the council to improve the car park at Roman Circus House and interpretation of the Monument.

“The council has formed a strategic ‘Heritage and Tourism’ task and finish group, made up of elected members and officers, to respond positively to heritage-related issues and opportunities as they arise.

"The Babcock site presents one such opportunity, which we will consider carefully to ensure the best solution is achieved for the heritage of the site and the people of Colchester."

Colchester Archaeological Trust is based at the Roman Circus Centre, which has reopened to the public until September 2019.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said the Babcock site was set to be sold in 2022 as per the Better Defence Estate announcement of 2016.

He added: "We will work closely with the Local Authority and other interested parties to consider the best possible future use for the site.”