CAMPAIGNERS fighting against plans for Colchester’s Cultural Quarter are searching for their ‘stolen’ mascot which went missing days before the launch of a public inquiry into plans for the site.

An inspector will start to hear the appeal into Alumno’s plans to build student accommodation and a hotel near Firstsite on Wednesday.

Campaigners have staged a number of protests at the Queen Street site since the controversial plans were submitted last year.

A 5ft dog-like mascot, nicknamed Black Shuck, had been put up on land and is often understood to be a bad omen in folklore.

However the campaigners have issued a tongue-in-cheek appeal for information after the item disappeared.

Campaigner Clare Marsh said: “He appears to people as a warning when something terrible is about to happen. That is why he initially materialised in the threatened Cultural Quarter site before the first enquiry into Alumno’s proposals.

“On that occasion he helped protesters avert the disastrous proposals and so then he disappeared for several months because it seemed as if danger had passed.

“Unfortunately, as Alumno decided to appeal, the site is once again under threat and so Shuck re-materialised to warn people the danger has not gone away.

“As he has become quite a local celebrity Shuck he took time out to meet MP John McDonnell on Saturday to explain the short sighted plans. He then returned to his post behind the fence.

“At some point between Saturday and Tuesday he disappeared. He was either dog-napped or he has broken out and is rampaging around Colchester warning people of the potential disaster for our town if they make the wrong decision next week.”

Alumno wants to build 336 students flats, an 87-bed Travelodge, retail units and public space. The plans were refused by Colchester Council and an appeal was lodged.

On Wednesday the planning inspector will hear opening statements from Alumno and the council, as well as third parties opposing the plans.

The inquiry is expected to last until October 25. It will be held at St Botolph’s Church.