PLANS for a £65 million out of town retail, leisure and employment park are a serious threat to the future of Colchester town centre, a leading business group has claimed.

Our Colchester Business Improvement District (BID) has hit out at Tollgate Partnership Limited’s latest proposals for its Tollgate Village development, dubbed Tollgate Village 2.0.

The £65 million development will see new shops, restaurants, an eight-screen cinema, bowling alley, a 60-bed hotel and business units built in Stanway.

But the BID, which represents more than 400 businesses in the town centre, has submitted an official objection to the planning application.

It says: “Town centres across the country have faced unprecedented difficulties over the last two years and Colchester is no different.

“We, therefore, have an interest in any planning application outside of the town centre that could threaten its future, such as this.

“It is imperative that such an application is adequately assessed by the council to ensure it is acceptable, and that where it is not, it should be refused.

“From our review of the application, which proposes a significant scale of floorspace as well as a wide range of uses, and our in depth knowledge of the town centre, we object to the application as we believe it would be likely to result in a significant adverse impact on the vitality and viability of Colchester town centre.”

Read more >> Everything we know about the latest plans for £65m retail and leisure park

The group says the applicant has not prepared an “up to date health check” on the town centre in the wake of Covid and a “robust assessment” of the impacts of the retail and leisure components of the site is needed.

It adds: “It is clear that Colchester town centre is facing significant challenges and that its health has declined since the Tollgate Village 1 application was approved.

“At a time of such difficulty, the council should be fully supporting the important role of the town centre and resisting applications that threaten its future, such as this.”

The original plans for Tollgate Village were approved on appeal in 2017 after they were turned down due to concerns over the impact on the town centre.

Daniel Watts and Jayne Gee, directors of Stanway-based Tollgate Partnership Limited, which is behind Tollgate Village, said: “We were extremely disappointed with the comments from the Colchester Business Improvement District (BID).

"We have offered to meet representatives of the BID to correct their clear misconceptions about our revised plans for Tollgate Village.

“The BID’s objection is very surprising as Tollgate Village 2.0 has 100,000 sq ft LESS retail space compared with the original scheme, which we have planning permission for and are free to commence at any time.

"We amended the scheme to include a business hub, a collection of offices and small business units of varying sizes to encourage entrepreneurship."

Colchester Council will have the final say on the scheme.