A PETITION has been launched calling on one of Colchester’s new arts centre’s staunchest critics to back the building.

Michael Polom, 23, wrote to Colchester MP Bob Russell saying his stance on the forthcoming £26million Firstsite centre, previously known as the Vaf, demonstrated an “apparent lack of support for the arts in Colchester”.

In his written reply, Lib Dem Mr Russell said: “Rubbish man!”

He added there was “massive opposition” to Firstsite in Colchester.

He wrote: “I have always supported the arts in the widest sense – but not the financial sponge of the Visual Arts Facility, which is a huge costly folly to the public purse and is taking money from grass-roots arts across the east of England.”

Mr Polom lives in De Vere Lane, Wivenhoe, meaning he is not one of Mr Russell’s constituents.

But he has set up a petition calling on anyone living in the Colchester constituency to voice their support for Firstsite, due to open in September after years of expensive delays.

He said: “Bob said in his letter that he’d like to see how many of his constituents are interested.

“I think there’s definitely too much negativity surrounding it.

“It’s very rare you get the opportunity to have something like this in your own town.”

Mr Russell, who last December replied to a constituent’s letter asking if taxpayers’ money would pay for next week’s Royal wedding by telling him to “get a life and stop whinging”, was unrepentant.

He said: “I’m delighted people are so moved to support the Vaf.

“Why don’t these people put their money where their mouth is and start raising money for it, rather than expecting the council taxpayers of Colchester to subsidise their social life?”

To sign the petition, visit petitiononline.com/mod_perl/signed.cgi?colchvaf&1