DESIGN experts warned Colchester Council against building large numbers of student accommodation in the town’s so-called Cultural Quarter more than two and-a-half years ago, it has been revealed.

A confidential report, compiled by the Design Council, has been released as part of the appeal process over Alumno’s designs for the Cultural Quarter.

The document is a design review of plans for the St Botolph’s Quarter, dated March 2017, from the early stage of the planning process before an application was submitted.

Although supportive of redeveloping the area, in the report a panel of experts warned “such a large quantum [of student accommodation] may have an unintended impact on the retail mix and character of the whole scheme”.

The report states: “Overall, the proposed uses can work together on the site but a few concerns were raised about the principle of student accommodation on this site. This concern specifically relates to the impact of a large number of students in this location.

“It was felt that while students can enliven the environment and enhance the night-time economy of the site, they can also ultimately change the current subdued environment of the area and may affect the type and range of retail operators who may locate here.”

However, it also adds: “We are confident the client and design team can deliver a suitable scheme on this site and look forward to engaging in the design proposal in the near future.”

Alumno’s plans to build 336 student rooms, a 87-bed Travelodge hotel, retail space and a public square were rejected by Colchester Council’s planning committee in February.

Colchester Council will defend the decision at a six-day planning inquiry starting on October 16.

Campaigner Alan Short said: “The report says mixed development with limited student accommodation. The current plans are all student accommodation with little else apart from the hotel.”