PLANS to transform a building near the starting gates of Colchester’s famed Roman Chariot Circus have been unveiled.

A planning application has been submitted to transform the former Garrison Education Centre building into a base for Colchester Archaeological Trust and a centre that gives information about the circus.

The bid follows failed plans by the trust and community group Destination Colchester to buy the neighbouring Sergeants’ Mess, which houses the circus’ starting gates underneath its gardens, due to a lack of funding.

The trust now hopes to use £240,000 raised in a public appeal and its own funds to buy and refurbish the education centre.

After that is achieved this summer, it wants to place a 3D display, including two large screens, in the garden to give visitors a sense of what happened there nearly 2,000 years ago.

It then wants to win grants of about £750,000 from private trusts to create a museum, a cafe and a shop inside the redeveloped building.

Finally, the archaeologists plan to submit a second planning application to create a visitor attraction in the education centre gardens, which lead to the starting gates. Philip Crummy, director of the archaeological trust, said the new scheme would be better than anything created at the Sergeants’ Mess.

He said: “I think it’s going to work out well. We’re very pleased and relieved to be getting on with it.

“Overall, it’s much cheaper than the Sergeants’ Mess. The repair costs are less and it doesn’t involve any private people, so there’s not that complication.

“Although it’s going to take up to two years before the information is finished, we hope to get the garden going and we have enough money from the public appeal to plan for that.”

Mr Crummy also said he was confident of winning funding for the second stage of the project.

He said: “When we first started this project, we approached various trusts to see if we could get money towards the purchase and refurbishment of the Sergeants’ Mess.

“The message we got was they’re not interested in buying buildings, they’re more interested in paying for something to happen inside them.”

Colchester Council’s planning committee is expected to rule on the application in the next couple of months.