Colchester - Great Britain’s oldest recorded town - could become one of the world’s newest heritage sites under a proposal revealed today.

Heritage campaigners want to see the community’s Roman sites included in the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) list of nearly 900 remarkable natural and cultural landmarks.

As a first step towards world recognition, destination Colchester, one of the groups working to save the Roman circus, is launching a bid to have Colchester included in the Government’s tentative list of UK candidates.

The list, last drawn up in 1999, is open until June 11, with nominations being announced next year.

If selected by UNESCO, Colchester would join 28 other UK heritage sites, including Blenheim Palace, the City of Bath and Hadrian’s Wall, and appear on an 890-strong international list featuring such iconic locations as the Statue of Liberty, Venice and the Acropolis.

Jess Jephcott, who chairs destination Colchester’s heritage group, says town’s historic features, including the Roman walls, racing circuit, the theatre and Temple of Claudius at Gosbecks Archaeological Park - the birthplace in AD43 of Romano-British rule - are all worthy additions.

“We believe that Colchester's unique heritage is so special that worldwide recognition is our right,” he said. “We are starting to explore our World Heritage Site potential.

“We need to apply to be added to the shortlist of sites, and our application must be completed by June of this year. After that, we would have to wait a further ten years to apply again.

“There is no time to lose, and, despite the distractions of the forthcoming elections, destination Colchester are seeking the support of our MPs, our county and borough councils and the people of Colchester. We see this opportunity as key to developing Colchester as the best visitor destination in Britain.”

*For more on this story, see this week's Essex County Standard.