CAMPAIGNERS have welcomed Essex County Council’s decision to review the covenant it holds over the site for Alumno’s development of Colchester’s so-called Cultural Quarter.

But they have warned it isn’t time to celebrate just yet.

Conservative MP Will Quince met with County Hall boss David Finch to discuss the development, which features 336 student rooms, an 87-bed Travelodge and retails units on land off Queen Street.

READ MORE: Essex County Council deals blow to Alumno development

Mr Finch says the authority will now need to “carefully consider the provisions within the covenant” it holds before the scheme progress.

Colchester’s High Steward Sir Bob Russell thanked both politicians for their intervention.

“However, it is too early to get out the bunting and celebrate,” he said.

“I have been around long enough to know what is promised is not always delivered, so we must be cautious at this stage.

“The covenant, from when 60 years ago the county council sold the Queen Street land to Colchester Council for a bus station, is quite clear if the bus station ceased then the land had to be used for public benefit.

“Massive blocks of student accommodation by a property speculator are not of public benefit.”

Gazette: High Steward Sir Bob RussellHigh Steward Sir Bob Russell

He added: “Of course, money may yet talk and the county council will grab the money.

“But upholding the covenant would be a lasting legacy, putting public good first ahead of a one-off short-term financial gain.”

Alumno’s plans were rejected by Colchester Council’s planning committee in February but the decision was overturned by a Government planning inspector on appeal.

Jo Edwards, chairwoman of Colchester Civic Society, said the site was “too valuable to be squandered”.

She said: “Colchester has such potential as a tourist destination but, sadly, we do not attract as many visitors as we should.

“This is something we need to address if our town centre is to remain vibrant and our economy is to grow. This site is key. It needs to be used wisely.

“Hopefully, Essex County Council will choose not to lift the covenant, Alumno will find somewhere more appropriate to build and Colcestrians will be given the opportunity to consider uses for the site which will enhance our tourism offer, provide opportunities for local people and breathe new life into the area.”

Alan Short, who spearheaded a cross-party campaign against the plans, said Mr Quince should press the “breadth of opposition to the scheme” which saw residents submit hundreds of objections to the plans.

“I believe if the development was put as a new proposal to the current council cabinet it would be rejected and if Alumno had lost their appeal, the council would have come forward with new plans more in line with the community’s ideas,” he said.