The man behind ambitious proposals for an £8 million Roman circus in Colchester has unveiled the site.

Entrepreneur Patrick Murphy wants to create a replica of the Circus Maximus - as featured in the film Ben Hur - on land next to the Butterfly Hotel off the Ardleigh Crown interchange of the A12 and A120.

An outline planning application has been submitted to Colchester Council and Mr Murphy is hoping work can start on the giant tourist attraction next spring.

At a meeting, he told business leaders how the 10,000 sq m Roman arena would be the only one of its kind in the world and would attract tourists from all over the globe.

It would accommodate 1,200 people and would be suitable for all the family.

He said: "The reaction from business people was excellent.

"They thought it was a good thing and wished me luck. All we have to do now is wait for the council's reaction."

Mr Murphy, a London businessman, has two sites in mind if the plans for Ardleigh fall flat.

He selected the plot because it is close to the A12 and within easy reach of ports and airports.

But he insisted the circus would not exacerbate traffic problems as motorists will be diverted away from the Crown interchange.

Around 80 per cent of visitors will also come by coach, easing congestion in the area, he told business people today.

The circus will also create at least 150 jobs, most of whom will be recruited locally.

"The traffic impact on that roundabout will be negligible," he added.

Mr Murphy added: "It will be totally unique - the only one of its kind in the world and will definitely put the area on the map.

"We need to raise people's awareness of Colchester as a Roman town."

For £39, visitors to the Roman circus will be greeted by an emperor and served a four-course banquet with wine.

Once seated in the arena they will be entertained by Roman stunt riders and fighting gladiators.

The finale will be a Ben Hur-style chariot display, all performed by stuntmen.

Guests will then move to the Egyptian ballroom, complete with live music, souvenir shops and dance floor. At the end of the evening they will be entertained by national cabaret acts.

Schools will be invited in free during the day to attend lectures and lessons.

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