A vision has been drawn up to celebrate and promote Colchester's prized Roman Circus.

The chariot racing circus was uncovered in 2004 and the eight starting gates were unearthed in the gardens of the old Sergeants' Mess in 2007.

But five years on from the first discoveries, there is nothing to show where the racing circus was.

A bid was made by Colchester Council to the Heritage Lottery Fund for £1 million of funding to create a visitor and intrepretation centre - but it failed.

Now a shared vision has been created by leading Colchester history lovers putting forward a masterplan of how the circus should be celebrated and interpreted.

The vision, presented by community interest company destination Colchester, has been drawn up by: * Peter Herring, voluntary project manager of the Abbeyfields Roman chariot racing mosaic project; * Philip Crummy, director of the Colchester Archaeological Trust; * John Mallinson from the Colchester Archaeological Group; * Historian Jess Jephcott from destination Colchester.

The circus was found during archaeological works carried out as part of the redevelopment of Colchester Garrison.

The site is being developed by Taylor Wimpey but the shared vision calls for as much of the circus footprint as possible to be placed in public ownership.

It also suggests creating a grass mound, about 1 metre high and 6 metre wide, to identify the site of the circus.

The vision says a visitor interpretation area whould be set up within the Sergeants' Mess building which overlooks the circus.

And it calls for an above-ground recreation of the starting gates in the gardens.

It is also hoped to get a permanent internal home for the circus mosaic and for the circus to become a major component of a Colchester heritage trail.

The group aims to get the support of a number of groups including English Heritage, which designated the circus site a scheduled ancient monument, Colchester Borough and Essex County councils, Colchester Archaeological Trust, Colchester Civic Society, Colchester MP Bob Russell and the Chamber of Commerce.

Taylor Wimpey has planning permission to convert the Sergeants' Mess into homes - but the group hope there may be some way of exchanging the mess and gardens for some other planning gain within the Garrison redevelopment.

If not, they hope there may be some way of buying it possibly through the combination of a Heritage Lottery Fund grant, private equity and a public appeal.

The building would be big enough to be used as an intrepretation centre, a new base for the Colchester Archaeological Trust, museum storage and other communication organisations.

The vision states: "Developing the Sergeants' Mess reveals major opportunities for economic growth, tourism revenue and world heritage status.

"Colchester's Roman Circus is unique in Britain and every effort must be made to prouect the ancient historic site."

Mr Jephcott said: "We don't know what funding is available or what Taylor Wimpey wants for the building.

"But we are hopeful that everyone involved can agree to the concept."

The vision says the circus could be a major component of a Colchester heritage trail.

Mr Jephcott said the next stage would be for a series of talks to be held to unite support.

"We have to listen to what the council have to say and if they want changes. We also have to get costings.

"The whole aim is to get people coming to Colchester and our heritage is a big part of that.

"We are determined to see this through, one way or another."

Paul Smith, portfolio holder for culture and diversity on Colchester Council, said he supported the vision - in principle.

But he added: "In the current financial environment, we going to need to find other sources of funding to help the development.

"Part of that could come from discussions with the builders and part will require some outside funding.

"It could be possible to go for Heritage Lottery funding again, this time with the community support of destination Colchester.

"It is a question of trying to move it forward."

* destination Colchester would like your views and can be contacted via its website on www.destination-colchester.com.