A decision on the proposals for the Tollgate Village development in Stanway which would include shops, restaurants, leisure facilities and a cinema, was deferred when it went before the council’s planning committee last year, after members voted by the narrowest of margins to defy officers’ recommendations and not reject the plans.
Officers have now prepared a fresh report on the scheme detailing the risks to the council of approving the application, possible financial implications and recommended conditions should the plans be given approval ahead of further discussions at a planning meeting on Thursday.
One of the factors included in the report is that if Tollgate Village was given permission then the plans for Northern Gateway - which includes restaurants, a multiplex cinema, extreme sports facilities and a hotel on land close to the A12 - could fall flat.
The report says: “Council officers believe the borough cannot sustain two large new cinemas together with the existing Odeon and the forthcoming Curzon.
“If the departure at Tollgate is approved, this will risk the withdrawal of the anchor leisure element of the Northern Gateway scheme.
“If this occurs all the restaurant and extreme sport uses will also withdraw.
“Officers are not currently aware of other leisure anchors of similar stature that could be a viable replacement.”
The Northern Gateway scheme is part of the council’s Strategic Plan for 2015 to 2018.
Other factors flagged by officers include the impact on the council’s current and future local plans by allowing the scheme to be built on employment land and the potential for the council to be liable to costs if town centre retailers challenged the decision via a judicial review and won.
Members have also been warned about the potential for accusations of inconsistency after refusing proposals for Stane Park – a restaurant development in Stanway – partly because it was proposed for employment land.
Officers advised on government guidance which says town centres should be top of the retail hierarchy but said they were not looking to pressurise members.
The report said: “It is not a question of officers trying to apply undue pressure to councillors.
“That would be wholly unacceptable and improper and is alien to the relationship which has been cultivated over decades in Colchester.”
The report again recommends the proposals are refused.
The planning meeting will take place at Colchester’s Moot Hall at 6pm.
DIRECTORS of the company behind the plans for Tollgate Village have hit out at the “scaremongering” report.
In a statement, Jayne Gee and Daniel Watts from the Tollgate Partnership, said: “We are disappointed with the officer’s report; it is extremely misleading, introduces new and contrived evidence and focuses on a number of factors we do not believe are relevant to the proper consideration of the application.
“It is clearly aimed at scaring members into reconsidering their support for the scheme.
“We are grateful for the support of the many councillors who have previously recognised the overwhelming public support for Tollgate Village.
“In the three years of discussions we had preceding our application, we have not been asked at any stage to consider if there would be an impact upon the speculative Northern Gateway proposals, members should, therefore, not give any weight to the officer’s pessimistic opinion when considering the Tollgate Village application.
“It is concerning the council is putting so much emphasis on Northern Gateway, on the council’s own land and the alleged affect Tollgate Village will have upon it.
“We were told in December the scheme was not relevant to the proper consideration of the Tollgate Village application.
“Now the officer claims, without a single shred of evidence if Tollgate Village is approved, the potential anchor for the leisure element might withdraw and this will have a domino effect and every single restaurant and extreme sports operator will also withdraw.
“The report scaremongers with threats of judicial review but not identified any possible cause of such an action.”
The brother and sister directors added: “Is there not a point a conflict of interest when the council is determining its own applications?
“We also note employment Minister Priti Patel, MP for the Witham constituency which includes Stanway, is 100 per cent in support of Tollgate Village.”