Cllr Lewis Barber, Deputy leader of the Conservative Group, writes: "For the last week, the future of one of Colchester’s key pieces of town centre land has been debated at a public appeal heard by a Government Planning Inspector. The developer Alumno is arguing that its monstrous proposals for the Borough’s Cultural Quarter should be given the green light. A site designated to help stimulate regeneration through culture and our heritage risks being lost forever to student accommodation, empty for large portions of the year."

It should have never got this far. The Liberal Democrat and Labour controlled Council’s decision to sign a questionable contract with Alumno allows the developer control of this publicly owned land, if successful at appeal. This contract should not have been signed. It has risked fatally undermining the Colchester community’s ability to decide the future of this important site. 

This contract and the handling of the Alumno planning application reflects a wider cultural problem in the Council. Too often the Council pursues a top-down approach to decision making where it sees itself as right and everyone else as wrong. It sees communities as an irritation that must be overcome rather than a wonderful source of ideas, passion and inspiration. 

That is why Colchester Conservatives would take a different approach.  We would look to work with people to improve our Borough. Not just ‘consulting’ but involving. Lib Dem Councillor Martin Goss sees criticisms of the Alumno plans as “hot air substantiated by nothing” by those who are “loony”. But Colchester Conservatives see people desperate to have their say and involve themselves in the future of the Borough.

If, and I hope it is, the Alumno appeal is dismissed then a good place to start is allowing people to shape the future of our Cultural Quarter. A Conservative run Council would allow that to happen.