The letter from Colchester Council leader, David King (letters 21 July) somewhat misses the point in my letter (14 July) when he claims that removing the St Botolph’s roundabout will only add one minute to “peak journey times” for those travelling from Mersea and nearby areas.
Even if that were true, the biggest challenge facing Colchester is how to maintain a thriving city centre when most of the large chain stores which attract shoppers have moved out to Stanway, leaving independent shops struggling. The only credible solution to that is a strategy to attract more shoppers into the city centre from the surrounding rural areas, shoppers who as I earlier pointed out, have a choice of where they shop. However, I can see nothing in either the City Council’s masterplan or Councillor King’s letter which does that.
In fact, if anything - quite the opposite, as a core theme of the council’s masterplan is reducing car travel into Colchester. However, the masterplan, which the council’s consultation describes as a blueprint for “the next 100 years” totally ignores the fact that in 2020 the present government announced a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars in 7 years’ time (https://tinyurl.com/2p8jdeft). So, in 10-15 years’ time most cars on our local roads will be electric and producing zero emissions.
Being concerned about global climate change is important, but we elect a local council primarily to look after our local area. A city centre which lacks a thriving retail centre is likely to become a run-down environment with vandalism and crime.
Could I suggest that the council looks at Beccles in Suffolk where the fortunes of local independent traders were revived by a major mid-range supermarket being given planning permission to locate near the town centre with a large car park providing 2 hours free parking. It has attracted shoppers into the town from the wider rural area, which has led to many of the towns independent shops now thriving. Something similar would be more likely to breathe life into Colchester’s city centre economy than the current idea in the council’s masterplan of simply building a few hundred car free houses on land near the Town Station.
Colchester has an amazing historical heritage which, with the right vision, could enable it to be a thriving tourist centre like Bath or York, which people visit on city breaks. So, whilst it’s very welcome that the city council masterplan is looking to invest in heritage facilities, this will only work if we have a thriving town centre shopping area, which will require attracting more people into the town centre shops, not less.
Dr Martin Parsons