ROMAN circus campaigners have started crunch talks with the owner of land where Colchester’s former chariot circuit once stood.

With just two days to go until the deadline imposed by developer Taylor Wimpey expires, Colchester Archaeological Trust is now tantalisingly close to getting the £200,000 it needs to be sure of closing a deal.

It was given until the end of the month to find £750,000 to buy the old sergeants’ mess building, beneath whose grounds are buried the remains of the chariot-racing stadium’s starting gates.

However, if it can raise £200,000, the rest of the cash is likely to come from a mortgage and a deal with a builder to convert part of the building into flats.

With two days to go, the Gazette-backed bid is within £5,000 of the target.

Volunteer fundraisers are confident they have done enough to make a deal possible. This will pave the way for a heritage centre to be created on the starting gates site.

Meetings with the owner have started behind the scenes, with an announcement expected next week.

The campaigners have also joined forces with Essex County Council, which is looking to buy a second former Army building alongside the former sergeants’ mess. They hope the council will help broker an overall agreement covering both sites.

Thousands of people have backed the Roman circus campaign to ensure the remains of the ancient circus – the only Roman chariot-racing arena to be found in Britain – are safeguarded.

The latest fundraising event, the modern equivalent to a chariot race, at Colchester’s Indikart go-kart track, added £400 to the fund on Wednesday.

Witham commercial printer Printwize has also announced it is donating £1,000 to the fund, plus £1 for every order customers place, quoting the words, “Roman circus”.

Isobel Merry, the campaign’s head of fundraising, said: “I need to get my spreadsheet out to do the final sums, but we really are nearly there.”

Her colleague, Wendy Bailey, added: “Now it’s all about the next phase.

“We have shown fantastic support in Colchester for this project and now we have to move forward again.”