This week a £4.7 million plan to put a derelict former bus station back into use was unveiled.

Colchester Council has begun investigating the possibility of converting the former First depot, in Queen Street, into “a dozen or more” business units.

They say it will provide a “much needed” boost to Colchester’s cultural quarter.

Here is everything we know about the plans.

What is happening to the site?

The council is applying to South East Local Enterprise Partnership for funding, with the hope the group will front the “majority” of the cost for the project.

Cash could also come from from the Government’s Towns Fund, if Colchester’s bid for up to £25 million is successful.

David King, Colchester councillor responsible for resources, said although the plans are at an early stage, the units would be offered to “digital and creative” businesses.

“This would be an opportunity for some small spaces for creative and digital businesses to be sited along Queen Street,” he said.

“We have been talking to investment planners about securing an investment, and until a decision is made have to go through a process or three.

“As a former bus garage it could be just right, and factors in to the regeneration of this area as well.

“I would say we are talking about more than a dozen opportunities for small businesses.”


Why is regenerating the bus depot so important?

Mr King hopes, if the plan comes to fruition, it will act as a catalyst towards improving a “neglected” part of Colchester.

“This part of town has sometimes had a neglected feel, the more dilapidated sites we can convert the better – the more it will encourage other investment, the more it will drive footfall.

“If the early work is a success and the potential funding is secured, we will make a decision whether we go with it or not by the end of the year.


“The value of the project, if it happens, is about £4.7 million – although this number has to be confirmed and we have to secure the investment.”

Mr King also promised transparency on the part of the council, which agreed to purchase the site from First in 2013.

“The council will be held to account over the plans, Alumno was a great example of this. We will follow all statutory planning processes and it will be an open, and public, process.”

What is the history of the Queen Street depot?

First Buses stopped using the Queen Street depot in 2015, when it moved its buses to a new depot in Haven Road, Colchester.

Colchester Council purchased the site in 2013 and has long desired a redevelopment project.

In 2015, the authority floated plans to turn the depot into ‘the Wonderhouse’, a museum displaying artefacts placed in storage due to a lack of space at Colchester Castle.

But the plans were scrapped in early 2016, when the Heritage Lottery Fund rejected the council’s second bid for cash.

At the time, the council’s then planning boss Tim Young said: “We need to get together quickly and come up with an alternative plan.”

However, the depot has remained empty and unused ever since.

David King, councillor responsible for resources, said the council had been speaking to potential investors about funding since 2018.

“We know businesses in the creative and digital industries are much more often part of a modern economy over sectors like manufacturing,” he said.

“We have things in the pipeline, like 5G, that will show we are pro-business and focused on doing all we can to help existing businesses while looking to the future.”