Francis Terry is backing plans to take the fate of a site containing Britain’s largest Roman building remains out of the hands of housebuilder Taylor Wimpey.
The locally based, classical architect has come up with an alternative ‘grand vision’ for the former garrison in Colchester in support of a campaign led by concerned local archaeologists.
Excavations in late 2004 discovered traces of the quarter-of-a-mile long Roman chariot racing circus (pictured) – which was thought to be the only Roman circus in Britain, seating up to 16,000 spectators – on land behind a derelict grade II-listed sergeants’ mess. Taylor Wimpey had already secured planning permission to build new homes on the plot.
Colchester Archaeological Trust (CAT) hopes to buy the mess and adjacent land from the Taylor Wimpey for £750,000 and build a visitors’ centre close to the ruin’s starting block gates.
Philip Crummy, director of CAT said: ‘We want to get hold of it so we can interpret it and integrate something of the layout of it into the modern town.’
CAT still needs more than £200,000 to buy the site, which will go back on the market at the end of the month.
Francis Terry of Quinlan and Francis Terry said: ‘If the circus was discovered in America, just outside New York, for example, I think money would be no object.
‘Ideally I would like the roads to be diverted around this area and the houses to be developed sympathetically around this with respectful distance.’
Surprisingly, Taylor Wimpey has not closed the door to selling on the land. A spokesperson for the housebuilder said: ‘[We are] working closely with Colchester Archaeological Trust and fully support their endeavour to take ownership of this site for the community.
‘Meanwhile, we are continuing to keep the area tidy and safe, and we are offering access to those individuals who have an interest in working with the society on this exciting project.’
Taylor Wimpey has no plans to develop buildings directly on top of any of the Roman Circus ruins.