COLCHESTER Council has joined forces with heritage experts to secure a deal to purchased a section of the town's iconic Roman Wall which was set to be auctioned off.

Advertising firm JCDecaux was set to sell the piece of land and wall along Middleborough at Strettons Auctions, in London, on July 14 with a guide price of £4,500 to £5,000.

However following negotiations with Colchester Council, the firm has agreed to sell it to the authority for £5,000.

The section of wall is part of Britain’s largest surviving Roman wall which dates back almost 2,000 years.

After news of the auction was revealed, Colchester MP Will Quince urged the authority to step in to ensure the wall could be "preserved".

Mr Quince said: "My concern is someone purchasing it who doesn't understand the importance of maintaining the Roman Wall.

"Colchester Council already does this for other parts of the wall so it makes sense.

"We cannot miss this opportunity to preserve a key piece of Colchester's heritage."

Resident Fabian Green raised the issue at a meeting on the council's cabinet on Wednesday.

He said: "Our Roman wall is a cherished part of Colchester’s rich heritage and it is one of most significant features of the town centre which makes it so special.

"No one here in Colchester, or I am sure on the council, would want to see the wall put at risk in any way.

"The current owners of the wall are selling it and I understand they are willing to provide the council with a generous offer which presents the council with a cast iron guarantee on its future protection and preservation."

Council leader Mark Cory gave a "cast iron guarantee" at the meeting the authority would protect the wall.

Now it has been confirmed the council will purchase the wall from its owners after positive negotiations with the owners.

Mr Cory said: "I would like to thank the public for their vigilance in seeking to safeguard this substantial section of the Roman Wall. So many people got in touch – I can’t name them all.

“The council takes its role of protecting the Roman Walls very seriously and I felt we must act in this case.

"We contacted the agents and agreed a deal to ensure we keep the wall safe.

"Special thanks go to those local heritage organisations and individuals whose generosity will help return this piece of the wall to the people of Colchester.

“I’m immensely proud of our work to safeguard and promote our rich Roman past.

"Colchester Borough Council has spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on the wall and on our heritage in recent years, including repairs to the section along Middleborough, in 2016-17, and the careful work to remove vegetation from the wall undertaken recently in line with our partnership agreement with Historic England.

“This, along with several other heritage projects including lighting up the wall, is reassurance, if ever it were needed, that we are absolutely committed to protecting the town’s unique history for posterity and for a Better Colchester.”

Mr Quince said following the news: "I would like to thank the Leader of the Council for listening to and working with me on this.

"The timescale was tight and he deserves huge credit for turning this round quickly at the Council end. A great result and legacy for our town."

Philip Wise, Colchester Borough Council’s Heritage Manager, said: “While the sale of the Roman Wall at Middleborough has naturally caused a great deal of local concern, it would never have endangered its status as a protected monument.

"Any development or other activity affecting the wall would still require Scheduled Monument Consent, which is granted by the Secretary of State acting on the advice of Historic England.

“Nonetheless, its purchase by the council with the support of local heritage organisations ensures that its future is secure and it can be managed for the benefit of local people.”

The wall is the earliest stone built defence structure of its kind in the country, dated to AD 65-80, and was built following the Boudican Revolt in AD 60, which saw the violent destruction of the town.

Julie Young, councillor responsible for culture and performance, said: "Colchester’s Roman Wall provides residents and visitors with perhaps the most stunning visual reminder of the long and momentous past that is woven into the fabric of our town and which most vividly defines its unique status as Britain’s first city.

“As custodians of such a unique and irreplaceable monument, we are committed to its protection, preservation and enhancement for the benefit of current and future generations.

“My thanks, also, to JCDecaux for working with the council to achieve this happy outcome.”