PART of a multi-million pound project to rejuvenate a culture-rich part of Colchester has been completed.

The Balkerne Gate public realm project has created a fresh look for people entering the town centre and will provide new opportunities for performance and open air activities.

The redesigned area, which came as part of the £11.3 million Mercury Rising project, incorporates a kerbless public realm, complete with new trees and seating, and is the precursor to the scheme’s second phase.

  The next stage will extend across a wider area to encompass the Colchester Arts Centre and Jumbo water tower.

The work was financed by the accelerated £18.2 million Town Deal Fund, which was awarded to We Are Colchester last September.

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While being completed, it also saw £10 million pumped back into the local economy with nearby suppliers and companies being employed to help create the ambitious plan.

Darius Laws, Colchester Council portfolio holder for economy, business and heritage, said it is great to see the work now complete ahead of the next phase.

“It is a fitting gateway into the town centre and this attractive space complements the fantastic work that has been done to transform the Mercury Theatre,” added Mr Laws.

“This development will help to generate greater footfall and is a more welcoming an accessible area for everyone to enjoy. It provides a significant boost to support the local economy as we navigate economic recovery from the pandemic.”

Steve Mannix, executive director of the Mercury Theatre said: “We are delighted our Mercury Rising project to re-develop the Mercury has been able to extend beyond our walls.

“In partnership with Colchester Council, our aim has always been to rejuvenate Balkerne Gardens.

“We are proud to have created a safe, accessible and welcoming environment to celebrate the best of Colchester’s past and present for residents and visitors alike.

“We look forward to working with groups, artists and others to animate the space with markets, street theatre, carol concerts, community events or simply a coffee or glass of wine any time of the day.”

Standing in front of the impressive finished product yesterday, Colchester Council’s leader Paul Dundas declared it an “exciting” moment.

“It expands the public realm and we are looking forward to seeing it stretched out towards Jumbo during phase two,” said Mr Dundas.