£40MILLION plans to build student flats, a hotel, retail units and a new public open space have rumbled on into their fourth year of controversy.

Alumno’s proposed redevelopment of land off Queen Street in Colchester’s so-called Cultural Quarter hinges on an agreement between Essex County Council and Colchester Council.

However, the county council put the brakes on the project due to a covenant it holds over Colchester’s former bus station which protects it from development.


It has now been revealed to the Gazette that Essex County Council has still not released the covenant and remains embroiled in talks with Colchester Council over the site’s future.

Alumno has planned to build 336 student rooms and an 87-bed Travelodge alongside retail units and a public open space since 2018.

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Despite County Hall’s stance, Colchester Council wanted to push on after it signed a 250-year lease agreement meaning it would receive a one-off payment of £980,881 if planning approval was agreed at any stage.

To boost this, the borough council’s cabinet approved using legal powers to temporarily remove access rights for residents and businesses in the area to allow construction to begin.


Colchester Council’s former business boss David King claimed it would bring between £2million and £ million a year into the town.

The council now says the outcome of “ongoing” discussions with County Hall will be made known at “the appropriate time”.

An Essex County Council spokesman added: “We have not released the covenant and Colchester Council is required to offer the land to us before it is allowed to sell the site to Alumno.”

The controversial application drew almost unprecedented opposition from campaigners from across the political spectrum, including from Colchester MP Will Quince and Colchester’s Conservative Group.

Arts expert Dorian Kelly, who has long-opposed the plans, said: “It’s just gone completely quiet, it’s quite probable Alumno is having a rethink.

“The university is undersubscribed and occupancy in the Magdalen Street flats is less then expected, so perhaps Alumno is thinking it might not be the best time to spend £40million on student flats.”