Frequently Asked Questions

We wanted to thank everyone who attended our public exhibition and who has subsequently passed us their feedback both using the freepost feedback forms and via this website. There are a number of topics that many people have raised, and we wanted to take this opportunity to clarify them through the Frequently Asked Questions section below.

If you have other question or feedback, please contact:

Michael Stanworth, Head of Property, Lexington Communications
Michael.Stanworth@lexcomm.co.uk


Click on the questions to read the answers.

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What is the current planning policy towards this site?
The Council’s planning policy for the re-development of the St Botolph’s Quarter was laid down in 2005 when it approved a Supplementary Planning Guidance (SPG) document and provides the foundation for the phased enhancement and mixed-use re-development of the area.

More recently, the SPG’s aspirations are also included in Colchester Council’s emerging Local Plan, which seeks to structure the evolution of the built environment in Colchester in the coming years. Together they stipulate that the Cultural Quarter should include:

  • a creative business hub
  • a new hotel
  • new retail space
  • new residential accommodation
  • new restaurants

The plans that we are bringing forward deliver on every element of this.

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How have you come to these specific set of proposals?
Using the SPG as a guide, since October 2017 we have been engaging extensively with the Council’s Planning Department as well as Historic England to help guide the evolution of the specific plans we presented at our exhibition.

Importantly, in terms of the design of our proposals, we have consulted the government’s advisor on architecture and urban design, the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE). It seeks to champion well-designed buildings, spaces and places and provides expert advice and works with architects, planners, designers and developers to deliver this.

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What is the design inspiration behind the scheme?
The site lies in the historic heart of Colchester, though the area around it has been altered by modern developments of the last fifty years, which have a different character and larger scale.

So the new development needs to weave between the new and the old, at a scale which will sit comfortably with the larger modern developments, but taking inspiration from the older townscape and buildings.

Historically the site has been a ‘backland’, occupied by gardens or yards belonging to the Queen Street buildings or, most recently, the bus station. As such, it has not been tied into the surrounding network of streets and footpaths.

Therefore, the proposed development makes new connections with Queen Street, Priory Street to the south, and ‘Firstsite Square’ to the north.

The spaces between the buildings are as important as the buildings themselves, and the scheme is organized to give as much as possible to the public in a new street, running north to south, linking new squares and spaces, and cross routes which can link through to Berryfield should it be opened to the public. The student accommodation is arranged around courtyards, rather like a traditional college building.

The architecture is modern but takes cues from older buildings in the town, to guide the proportions and choice of materials. The architectural language has been developed to fit with the scale of its modern neighbours but to continue the lineage of the older town. Each side is responsive to its closest neighbours in order to vary the appearance and give distinctiveness to the various parts.

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What about the proposed height and location of the buildings?
The Council’s SPG sets out the aspirations for both the height and location of the buildings. As noted above, the extent of development envisaged by the masterplan has significantly reduced, but the proposed scheme is in accordance with the broad principles that it proposed.

Our plans are predominantly four storeys in height, stepping down to three storeys, and then two, by the Town wall. The masterplan illustration suggests greater height in the middle. The proposed scheme is five storeys just in the very centre of the scheme where the top storey is treated as an attic storey with a stepping parapet. The heights are proportional to neighbouring buildings. The scheme incorporates pedestrian routes through and across the site to tie it into the surrounding townscape.

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Can you not simply remove the most northerly building and add additional accommodation elsewhere on the site through a higher building?
In short, no. A building of over five storeys would be counter to the SPG document and would not command the support of either the Council’s Planning Department or Historic England (HE).

We recognise that as a historic location within a Roman town, we need to consider the design appropriately below ground, we have to adhere to certain principles set out by the Council and Historic England, and moving around the buildings will affect this sensitive balance.

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Why can’t you deliver bigger public squares?
In response to feedback from the community both at and following our public exhibition, we have amended our scheme to deliver additional public space. Firstsite Square is now approximately 860 square metres in size, and Theatre Square to the south is around 800 square metres. Alongside an expanded Rampart Walk along the Roman wall of about 660 square metres, that’s over 2,300 square metres of public open space and does not include the pedestrian routes through and across the site that this scheme delivers.

Please also see the public space diagram below (to open once clicked into a large high resolution image)

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What sort of businesses will take the commercial space?
As the project progresses we will work with Carter Jonas, a property consultancy, to begin marketing these spaces. We are taking a flexible approach to these spaces, which could be sub-divided if there is proven demand. We want these spaces to be active and vibrant and would welcome the opportunity to welcome local independent retailers. We are looking to have a reasonable proportion of the commercial units let to companies with a creative and/or community focus.

However, alongside this commercial space, it’s important to stress that there is also a community space that is likely to be rented either free or at a very low cost. This is to reflect our understanding that there is a lack of affordable meeting space for local groups to meet at the moment, and we can play a part in helping to deliver such a space.

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What about the Cultural Quarter?
Having worked closely with the Council, our scheme will deliver significant cultural space including artist studios and vibrant open spaces adaptable for a number of uses. Alumno have a strong track record of working with SPACE studios and look to further this relationship through this development, and are also liaising closely with Firstsite so that creative spaces are delivered that meets local demand.

Furthermore, we are working closely with a public art curator and are currently working on a mechanism through which local interested groups and individuals can work with us to deliver public art that’s appropriate to the site, local area and town more widely.

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Isn’t the scheme, and especially the student accommodation, gated?
No, the scheme is not gated. We believe we have found the right balance of new public spaces whilst at the same time being able to deliver the security any new resident living on this site would expect.

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What about the hotel?
In line with the planning guidance, there will be an 87-bed hotel and Travelodge is fully committed to this new facility scheme and has agreed terms to take a 25 year lease and they lease, franchise, manage and own over 525 hotels and more than 39,000 rooms throughout the UK, Spain and Ireland.

Colchester is a priority target location for Travelodge as there are currently very few branded hotels within the town centre and wider area, and the new hotel will be built to our latest specification, incorporating new look standard rooms, SuperRoomsTM, and Bar Café, as well as incorporating high levels of energy efficiency and high quality elevations as part of the St. Botolph’s Quarter.

The Travelodge will provide approximately 25 jobs for local people, including managerial, housekeeping, reception and ancillary staff. Of these, 6 are expected to be full time positions and 19 part time. All of these will be recruited locally and Travelodge has given a long-term commitment to the Government to recruit all its entry level vacancies in its hotels through a Local Employer Partnership with Job Centre Plus. Building upon this partnership, Travelodge is also committed to actively working with the priorities of individual Councils, so is able to engage with any specific employment programmes of Colchester, if required.

Overall, those who join Travelodge are given training as a matter of routine, with the aim of achieving at least a level two, national vocational qualification. Those who show promise can be fast-tracked to a management development scheme that can lead to promotion to assistant or hotel manager.

The customer numbers expected per year would be approximately: 42,000 with this calculated on the basis of the 87 proposed bedrooms ‘multiplied by’ average number of rooms sold (75%) ‘multiplied by’ average occupancy per room (1.75) x 365 days. This is a significant number of guests who will be visiting the area and contributing to its economic prosperity. Taking a conservative estimate of expenditure per guest of £20, this would generate over £840,000 pa for the local area.

A new Travelodge in Colchester town centre will also support the local business and tourism economies indirectly through providing good quality, affordable and highly accessible hotel accommodation. This will encourage more people to consider staying in the area when on either business or leisure trips.

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What about car parking locally?
The scheme will be completely car free, with students having a clause in their tenancy agreement which precludes them from owning and using a car. Such a clause is standard in all our tenancy agreements for all our schemes across the UK and it a clause we have activated in the past.

In terms of the hotel, Travelodge understand that the facility will be advertised to customers as car free, but with the potential for a reduced parking fee at the Priory Street car park depending on availability.

Some have suggested a basement car park but this cannot be delivered due to the Roman remains under the surface of the site and would not be permitted by the Council’s Planning Department or Historic England.

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Queen Street already has traffic problems. Won’t this scheme make it worse?
No. Alumno recognise that Queen Street already experiences high traffic volumes at certain times of the day, and as well as delivering a car free scheme we are in the process of agreeing a Section 278 Agreement with Essex County Council’s Highways Department to provide improvements to the street to improve both the pedestrian experience and vehicle traffic flow.

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Is there really demand for student accommodation in this location? Surely they want to live closer to their university buildings?
Alumno carry out independent research for each town or city they consider investing in, in order to ascertain the current and future demand for purpose built student housing. We are of course bringing forward these proposals at our own financial risk, and we believe there is proven demand for purpose built student accommodation in this town centre location.

Furthermore, the delivery of this scheme will see students moving into this specialist accommodation and which in turn will help to free up private family housing in Colchester. This will provide greater availability for local residents, especially young families, trying to find the accommodation they need.

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What about students moving in and out of their accommodation?
Students moving into new accommodation will be allowed to move into and out of their accommodation over two weekends a year. This will be managed by on-the-ground wardens, and students will be given specific time slots within the Priory Street car park.

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What about student management?
Alumno operates all of its schemes on the basis of purpose-built, fully-managed developments. This means that there will be management staff on-site at all times that will monitor and enforce the strict standards of behavior that Alumno expects of all its residents. While we aim to create a welcoming environment for all the students, any anti-social behaviour will not be tolerated and any residents breaching the clear and strict rules and regulations outlined within their tenancy agreement face appropriate disciplinary action, including the termination of tenancy.

The management team serve as a point of contact for neighbours should they wish make contact with building’s operators, and they will seek to engage with local residents and community organisations to work closely with local people on any issues.

The annual move-in process will be a carefully managed process over two weekends each academic year. To stagger arrivals, each student will be advised of a date and time to take up occupancy of their room. During ‘move-in’ days we will provide an increased management presence and, in order to minimise disruption, we will provide a methodical approach to the appointment times that students can arrive and unload. Students will move out over a longer, staggered time period, which means impact on the local community are further minimised. This period will also be closely monitored.

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What is the economic boost this scheme will bring?
Independent calculations have shown that there could be a boost of £2.7m into the local economy from the development and management of the St Botolph’s Quarter scheme.

In terms of the hotel, Travelodge’s own figures show that at a conservative estimate of expenditure per guest of £20 it would generate £840,000 each year for the local area. In addition, an estimated £1.9m would be spent in the local economy each year from 240 new students.

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What about new jobs as part of this scheme?
The scheme will also create a number of new jobs from hotel hospitality, student accommodation management as well as new roles in the various commercial, community and creative spaces. The hotel itself will create approximately 25 jobs for local people, including managerial, housekeeping, reception and ancillary staff. Of these, 6 are expected to be full time positions and 19 part time.

All of these will be recruited locally, and Travelodge has given a long-term commitment to the Government to recruit all its entry level vacancies in its hotels through a Local Employer Partnership with Job Centre Plus. Building upon this partnership, Travelodge is also committed to actively working with the priorities of individual Councils, so is able to engage with any specific employment programmes of Colchester.

There will also be around 20 jobs created during the construction phase, should the scheme secure planning permission, new local staff will also be required for the commercial spaces once open, and the management of the student facility will employ between 5 and eight full time staff who will also be hired locally.

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Won’t air quality get worse as part of these plans?
We have commissioned an air quality assessment to assess the impact of both the construction of the scheme and following completion. This assessment will be supplied to the Council – and publicly available on the Council’s planning portal – once a formal planning application has been submitted.

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