Some readers may recall coverage on regional television about the harrowing situation at Harlow where office blocks had been converted into flats, which the report indicated were far from satisfactory for the tenants who it appeared had been placed there from London.

Not only did the report indicate that the accommodation was less than ideal, it was also stated that some tenants were causing anti-social behaviour in the neighbourhood, with drugs and increased criminal activity.

It is this background that I hope will concentrate people’s minds in Colchester – particularly those in authority: The council; social services; education; and police – because there are proposals to convert all the office blocks off Causton Road, next to the river, into 100 residential properties (Gazette, May 7, “Bid is unveiled to turn office blocks into flats”).

It was further stated they could be “100 per cent social housing”.

The company behind the scheme is registered in London.


Changes in the planning legislation mean that such a change of use can be done without the need to get planning permission.

The conversion of empty office blocks into residences has been done successfully the other side of the river, in St Peter’s Street, where Charles House, Stuart House and Northgate House are now flats.

This was done in the days when planning approval was needed.

However, a fourth block – St Peter’s House – was not converted. It was demolished and new dwellings built.

I am told that St Peter’s House (older than the other three in St Peter’s Street) was of a construction which made it unsuitable for turning into flats.

All the office blocks off Causton Road now being lined up for use as residences are of the same age and appearance as that of St Peter’s House, and were built some 60 years ago by the same development company.

A much better solution would be the demolition of the office blocks and for a low-rise development in keeping with the two-storey houses in the area.

Hopefully Colchester Council will be able to persuade the London-based developers of this alternative, although I suspect that a repeat in Colchester of what has happened in Harlow is a more likely prospect.

Sir Bob Russell

Catchpool Road, Colchester