COUNCIL leaders have met to rubber-stamp a landmark deal to transform Colchester’s historic town centre.

Colchester Council and Essex County Council will now head to the drawing board to ensure both authorities work hand-in-hand to deliver a new masterplan by the end of this year.

The Gazette has been told this will include a commitment to building a new “transport interchange hub” which will dramatically overhaul Colchester’s Osborne Street bus station.

It includes a pledge to promote the River Colne and Castle Parks as tourist destinations in their own right, as well as a promise to enhance and protect conservation areas and locally listed buildings.

But the main benefit being championed is the masterplan ensures redevelopment projects overseen by the councils – such as at Vineyard Gate and St Botolph’s – are joined up as part of one overall plan.

Gazette: Colchester bus stationColchester bus station

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Council leaders say authorities will identify and plan areas for development, regeneration, design styles, neighbourhoods and public realm, while businesses and residents can have their say.

As part of the planning stage, authorities will consider the evolving new ways of working, shopping habits and leisure time while looking at public transport and how people access the town centre.

Colchester Council leader Paul Dundas said: “With the Town Deal projects about to start, the rapid transport system being developed and both councils committing to major regeneration projects, it is a unique opportunity to really define the future town centre.

“Town centres, not just Colchester but everywhere, will never go back to how they were, times and habits have moved on. We have to accept that and design a town centre fit for 2030.

Gazette: Leader - Paul DundasLeader - Paul Dundas

“We will be listening to everyone, I certainly don’t want to see a repeat of the past where unpopular schemes are forced on people without asking.

“We will never have another chance where so many things have come together to make this a realistic possibility.

“I do believe everyone in Colchester borough still cares about the historic town centre, and if we get the right long-term plan it will have a bright future and the time to do it is now.”