We have just submitted the planning application for a change of use of the former Army Education Centre and our solicitor has started the purchase process with a view (subject to planning consent) to complete it in around three months’ time. Make no mistake – these are major steps forward. We are on the way!
On the financial side, there is a long way to go but we now have enough funds available to allow us to press ahead with the purchase of the former Army Education Centre and much of the essential refurbishment works (i.e. the CAT mortgage of £168,000 and about £116,000 of the appeal funds for which consent for the switch is already in place). This summer we should also be able to start work in the garden of the Sergeants’ Mess setting out the starting gates and installing the glass interpretation screens so that the garden can soon be opened to the public.
We are excited by what we plan for the former Army Education Centre. In fact, it will make a better interpretation centre than the Sergeants’ Mess would have done. The spaces on the ground floor are larger and more flexible and lend themselves better to an interpretation centre. And the building is not listed so that it can be remodelled in ways which would not have been possible with the Sergeants’ Mess. When you visit the completed centre, you will enter it via a large portico of etched glass featuring an artist’s impression of the central part of the starting gates at actual size. You will walk directly into a large exhibition hall where you will be able to explore the world of Roman circuses and where you will be able to see the Archaeological Trust working on finds. Elsewhere you will find a 100-seater tearoom, a shop, and toilets. And outside (subject to a planning application which we plan to submit soon), you will be free to go into the garden of the Sergeants’ Mess and see an interpretative rendering of the starting gates. In due course, you will be able to walk around the whole footprint of the circus – all quarter of a mile of it – and (if our plans succeed) see a reconstructed section of the seating area in the circus. Entrance will be free.
The next step is to raise over half a million pounds to create the interpretation centre itself. It’s not going to be easy but with the ownership of the ECB and the success of the public appeal as starting points, we are in a strong position to approach various grant-giving bodies to support this important project for Colchester and the region. Many thanks indeed if you have made a donation towards the creation of the centre. Your support and donation are both crucial to the success of the project. Please be patient a little longer. We are getting there!