HUNDREDS of residents have sign a petition calling for a beloved arts institution to be saved after it was announced it would close due to the financial impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

Colchester Institute and Wilkin and Sons have announced they can no longer afford to run the Minories art gallery and the Tiptree Tea Room, in East Hill.

In response to the news, resident and artist Angela Horner set up a petition calling for the gallery to be saved, with more than 900 signing within 24 hours.

The building is owned by the Victor Batte Lay Foundation, a charity founded in the mid 1950s to buy the Grade II listed premises for the purpose of an art gallery.

Robin Matthews, the foundation’s chairman, said: “The directors of the foundation are, naturally, disappointed Colchester Institute had to take the difficult decision to close the building for the remainder of its lease term.

“As a normal business precaution in anticipation of the current lease possibly not being renewed, the directors had already initiated a process of consultation with interested parties regarding the future of the gallery.

“Our ultimate objective is, as soon as possible, to return the Minories to its original use as an arts and social venue with facilities that continue to enrich the lives of the people of Colchester and the wider region.

“These are difficult and changing times and the trends and patterns of post Covid-19 life are hard to predict. We may have to approach things totally differently in innovative, regenerative and novel ways.

“However, we have a board of enthusiastic and experienced directors who are determined to sustain and enhance the great heritage of the Minories.”

Mr Matthews added: “The foundation would welcome expressions of constructive interest.”

Councillor Tim Young (Greenstead, Lab) asked Colchester Council to do all it could to help at a meeting of the authority’s cabinet on Wednesday.

The council’s culture boss Julie Young said: “Like many Colcestrians the Minories holds a special place in my heart.

“It provides an oasis in the town centre - a quiet refuge to rest and refresh.

“I make a commitment to councillor Young we will do what we can to help. I have already been in touch with the foundation and I have asked for an urgent meeting with council officers to discuss what we can do to assist them.”

To sign the petition, click here.