A BID for cash to help showcase Colchester’s Roman chariot-racing circus has fallen at the first hurdle.

Colchester Council put in for £950,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund to fund a visitors’ centre at the site of the arena, which runs under Circular Road North.

The bid, submitted in December, failed to get past the first round of assessment.

Philip Wise, heritage manager for Colchester and Ipswich Museum Service, said: “While this is disappointing, there are further opportunities we will pursue to develop this richly historic site.

“In the interim period, we will interpret the site so visitors and residents of the town can enjoy this rare monument.”

Theresa Higgins, the councillor with responsibility for culture and tourism at Colchester Council, was keen to emphasise that “this is not the end of the project”.

“We are disappointed the fund was not swayed by the international importance of the site, as the only Roman circus known in Britain,” she said.

“We will continue to look for alternative sources of funding.”

The track was uncovered during excavations in 2004 and made headlines around the globe. It was designated a scheduled ancient monument in 2007.

Mrs Higgins said the council was looking to mark the line of the track with a row of cobbles in the ground, when the surrounding area is redeveloped. A lot of the ruins are underground and it can be hard to make people realise what they are standing on top of,” she said.

“We have already had one section marked out in the car park of a block of flats, and are working with developers, through the planning system, to get the track marked as blocks of land are redeveloped.”

Last October, the council reached a deal with Taylor Wimpey to retain public access to the site of the circus starting gates, which were found in the grounds of the former Cavalry Barracks in Le Cateau Road. The area is to be redeveloped for housing.