A ROW has erupted over Colchester Council’s plans to use controversial legal powers to press ahead with a controversial £40 million student flat development.

The authority’s cabinet is being recommended to approve the use of legal appropriation powers to temporarily remove access rights from the site of Alumno’s proposed redevelopment of the so-called Cultural Quarter.

The development will eventually see 336 student flats, a 87-bed Travelodge hotel, retails units and public space built off Queen Street.

Plans were rejected by the planning committee following huge opposition from residents but approved on appeal.

Access rights are one issue holding up the development, with Essex County Council also holding a covenant over part of the site.

Legal powers could be used to try to override this covenant, however, Colchester Council said discussions are ongoing.

But opponents of the scheme have accused the authority of preparing to take legal action.

Gazette: Alumno planAlumno plan

Ward councillor Simon Crow added: “This is an appalling scheme no one in the town wants and I have been campaigning against from day one.

“The idea one council is seriously planning to spend all this money effectively taking another council to court to build something which isn’t wanted is madness.”

Paul Dundas, leader of Colchester Conservative group, said County Hall would defend the covenant being removed.

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Colchester Council’s business boss David King said: “We respect they have rights on the site and we have no intention of going to court.

“We have been in dialogue with them for a long time and we want a way ahead on which we can agree.

“We need to know what alternatives they have for the site and where funding would come from. This is about enabling us to take the next steps to enable appropriation if necessary.”

Alternative access and compensation must be provided to residents and businesses.

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Mr King said the £40 million scheme will help further regenerate the town and bring in between £2 million £3 million each year once complete.

Gazette: Cllr David King..Cllr David King..

He said: “As well as the immediate and benefits of the student accommodation and hotel developments, the scheme will provide a powerful catalyst to other, adjacent schemes, such as the proposed grow-on space for creative and digital businesses and digital working hub in the former bus garage.

”The scheme will also deliver up to 60 long-term jobs and 300 jobs during the construction phase.

“This will be hugely helpful, when so many jobs are being lost and when we know the economic shocks of the pandemic will be with us for years to come. These students, their families and new visitors will bring between £2 million and £3 million a year into the local economy.”

He added: “There have been understandable concerns about regeneration on this site but done well there are benefits also.”