Council fails to approve £4m overhaul of Colchester’s ‘Jumbo’ water tower
Plans by Essex-based architecture studio Plater Claiborne to regenerate Colchester’s iconic Balkerne Tower – nicknamed ‘Jumbo’ – have floundered at planning committee
Colchester Borough Council’s planning committee voted against approving the high-profile mixed-use project to overhaul the Grade II*-listed water tower by seven votes to three.
Planning officers will now prepare a report setting out reasons for refusal to be voted on at the next planning committee meeting on 14 November.
The scheme by Wivenhoe-based Plater Claiborne proposed constructing offices, apartments, a restaurant, café, museum and observation deck inside the 1882 Romanesque Revival building.
Opponents to the scheme included English Heritage, the Victorian Society and SAVE Britain’s Heritage.
Balkerne Tower Trust chair Brian Light – who campaigned against the redevelopment – told BBC Essex: ‘I’m absolutely delighted.’
Light argued the red-brick structure was ‘not suited to commercial development’ and suggested it should be converted into a museum focussing on the role the tower played introducing cleaner water into the town.
He said: ‘We have very clear ideas about what should happen. Up and down the country water towers have been converted to houses. We’ve got one opportunity to keep one original Victorian water tower.
‘The story of how clean water was brought to Britain is hardly told and Jumbo can be used to tell it.’
Jumbo’s owner, George Braithwaite told BBC Essex he was disappointed by the decision.
He said: ‘I’ve been developing buildings for a long time and I believed that was the best option for that building. I’ve put a lot of time and effort into this project… it’s unfortunate my efforts have been thwarted.’
Designed by the borough surveyor and engineer Charles Clegg, Balkerne tower was built to improve water supply to the Essex Town but was decommissioned in 1987.
Plans to create a glazed penthouse atop the structure were approved in 2001 following an appeal but never built. An earlier attempt by Braithwaite to convert the tower was rejected two years ago.