CAMPAIGNERS are creating an alternative plan for Colchester’s so-called Cultural Quarter and want Colchester Council to pay £2.5 million for it.

Alumno’s controversial plans to build 336 student flats, an 87-bed Travelodge hotel, retail units and public open space at St Botolph’s were unanimously rejected by the council’s planning committee in February.

Since then a cross-party group of campaigners are working on their own designs for the future of the area around Firstsite and are calling for Colchester Council to back them.

Dorian Kelly, who helped spearhead the campaign against Alumno’s proposals, said: “In the longer term we are pursuing the council borrowing some money, about £2.5 million, which can be borrowed at next to no interest rate and be paid back over a long period of time.

“The plan is to make it a proper public open space with grass, tiled areas and a small open air amphitheatre.

“The council know this is what we have got in mind and we are waiting to see if they are receptive.”

Gazette: Dorian KellyDorian Kelly

Mr Kelly admitted the future of the site could be dependent on the results of the upcoming election, with Colchester’s Conservative Group, who have been outspokenly critical of the original scheme, currently lacking an overall majority by one seat.

The Liberal Democrats and Labour Party have also promised to listen to residents’ ideas for the town centre in their manifestos.

For now, campaigners are pushing Colchester Council for temporary measures at the site so it can be used in the interim.

Mr Kelly continued: “We have approached the council to ask them to clean up the site.

“We want to see the railings removed so the open space can be used for community markets and open air events in the short term.

“”Clare Marsh is getting plans together to create a community garden there filling it up with plants, bushes and trees. That would be on a temporary basis.”

Earlier this month Alumno withdrew an application to demolish a set of buildings at the town’s old bus depot off Queen Street.

Campaigners believe this could mean the developer is preparing to walk away or putting together plans for a different project, perhaps just for a Travelodge hotel.

Alumno has up to six months to to appeal against the planning committee’s decision in a bid to overturn the ruling.

A spokesman said the firm was still considering its options and no decision had been made.