More on the old Odeon

Just a few more links on this subject, after my post on it the other day:

Another Gazette article, which includes a brief comment from me – I said a lot more, but it was obviously edited for space!
The Facebook group mentioned in the article
A letter to the Gazette from my ward colleague Bill Frame who lives close to the site
A comment from the owner of the building just over a year ago, setting out his position which is that he’s only interested in opening a nightclub on the site, nothing else

The old Odeon in Crouch Street

As the issue of the old Odeon building in Crouch Street has been in the press recently, I thought I’d point out some of the issues that the Gazette reports misses.

The planning application to turn the building into a nightclub was submitted in 2006 and discussed by the Council’s Planning Committee on 10th August 2006. This was before I was a Councillor (indeed, I was walking through Glencoe on that day) but I believe the Committee rejected (pdf file) the application unanimously. That decision was then appealed by the applicant and a public inquiry was held in early 2008 by the Planning Inspectorate. After considering the evidence, the Inspector chose to dismiss the appeal and uphold the Planning Committee’s decision (pdf again). The conclusion to the Inspector’s decision states:

The proposal would adversely affect the quality of people’s life with insufficient mitigation and without overriding need.

The Gazette report fails to consult any local residents and only talks to shopkeepers in Crouch Street. While I understand the shopkeeper’s dismay at the building being in poor condition and remaining unused, local residents (in Crouch Street itself, Church Walk and St Mary’s) are rightly concerned about the prospect of a massive new nightclub on their doorstep – the application is for one of the largest in East Anglia, bigger than anything currently in the town – and all the problems that would create. We’re working to expand and diversify the night-time economy of Colchester, and a massive club like that wouldn’t help to make the town more welcoming to a wider range of people.

The key issue is that the owner of a building has chosen not to do anything with it – which is his choice – and only appears to be interested in opening a nightclub there, not finding other uses for the building. I know there’s a belief that ‘the Council must do something!’ but there’s very little we can do just become someone has chosen not to fully utilise a property they own. We don’t have the financial resources to afford a compulsory purchase order on the building – and my understanding of CPOs is that they’re a risky strategy that can leave you facing very large and unavoidable costs if you succeed – and there aren’t laws that allow us to force someone to make use of a building (and you should be glad of that when you consider how such a power might be abused). We are doing what we can, but the ball is not in our court on this one.

Town Centre consultations

Just a quick post to let you know about two consultations going on in Colchester this week.

First, some of the Better Town Centre ideas – including the creation of a car-free High Street – are on display this week. They’re in a shop in Red Lion Yard during this week, and will also be on a market stall on Friday. You can also respond online to the survey until November 30th.

Also, Cycle Colchester are looking for public comments on plans to improve cycle access to the town centre via Crouch Street. They’ll be in Crouch Street on Friday and Saturday for you to give your opinions, and you can also see the plans and comment on them online until November 29th.