COLCHESTER’S MP has asked the UK’s planning boss to launch an inquiry into the council’s handling of a controversial student flats development in the town’s so-called Cultural Quarter.

Will Quince has written to Secretary of State of Housing, Communities and Local Government Robert Jenrick calling for an investigation into Colchester Council’s handling of Alumno plans for 336 student flats, retail units and a Travelodge to be built off Queen Street.

In the letter, Mr Quince says constituents were firmly opposed to the scheme which drew more than 800 objections during the planning process.

The application was rejected by the council’s planning committee but approved by a Government planning inspector following an appeal.

Mr Quince said: “Serious concerns have been raised surrounding the unsuitability of student units in this specific area of town, the increased traffic flow in a busy area that will come with this development, the protection of Roman archaeology in the vicinity, and with architectural aspects of the plans themselves.

“Colchester Council did not adequately consult my constituents with the consultation process being insufficient and falling below the guidance set out in the DPPF (the national planning framework).

“Moreover, Colchester Council as the owner of the land in question, had always promised this land would be reserved for cultural, artistic, or heritage purposes.

“Finally, concerns have rightly been raised about the future of legal rights of way in the area, which surrounding residents and businesses heavily rely on.”

Mr Quince praised Essex County Council for listening to residents’ concerns and refusing to lift a restrictive covenant it holds over part of the site, but said Colchester Council “may be exploring legal avenues” to remove the covenant.

He said: “I would like to request the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government launch an inquiry into the council’s appalling handling of this matter and further, if you could advise if you have any powers as Secretary of State to intervene and stop this disastrous planned development which would be a wasted opportunity to create a public destination experience at the heart of the old Roman town of Colchester.”

Colchester Council has denied it plans to use legal powers to remove the covenant.