Campaigners hoping to restore Colchester’s Jumbo water tower are celebrating an historic agreement which gives them control of the landmark building.
The building’s owner, Paul Flatman, has agreed to lease the Grade ll* listed water tower to North Essex Heritage for 150 years. The deal will help kickstart the long-awaited project to restore the disused Victorian tower and bring it into a financially sustainable use. The charity has plans to convert the 34 metre tower, which is of national heritage importance, into a destination venue, restaurant, visitor experience and historical interpretation space.
Simon Hall MBE, Chairman of North Essex Heritage, said:
“This is wonderful news for Colchester and for Jumbo, which we know is a much-loved part of our town. The co-operation of Jumbo’s owner means we can finally move forward with this community project after this unique building has stood unused for some 37 years.
“These are exciting times. The lease, together with the £1m from We Are Colchester’s Town Deal Fund bid and continued support from Historic England, means the future is bright. The money from the Government’s Town Deal fund has now been confirmed and this will allow us to start on the urgent repair works and develop the restoration programme. We are hopeful we are now in a strong position to win millions of pounds of funding for the project from other sources.
“We are very grateful for the support of members of the We Are Colchester team, including Will Quince MP and Colchester Borough Council, for their commitment to this project. A restored Jumbo will help make the cultural “West End”, with the Mercury Theatre and The Arts Centre, a premium gateway to Colchester and a destination to be proud of. We are looking forward to working with the Mercury Theatre, The Arts Centre, Colchester Council and others.”
Paul Flatman and his son Dominic said:
“We are very pleased to have been able to agree an acceptable way forward for all concerned. We look forward to contributing to North Essex Heritage’s efforts to achieve completion of the project with the assistance of grant funders and the people of Colchester.”
Colchester Borough Councillor Darius Laws, Portfolio Holder for Economy, Business and Heritage said:
“Jumbo is an iconic feature of Colchester’s skyline and I am thrilled it can now be utilised to its full potential, to be enjoyed and cherished by residents and visitors alike.
“We are extremely grateful to all the partnership organisations who have worked together to make this possible. This is one of many projects facilitated by ‘We are Colchester’ and the Government’s Town Deal Fund.
“Regenerating Jumbo and the public realm around it will complement the Mercury Theatre, the Colchester Arts Centre and the nearby businesses and I can’t wait to get to the top of Jumbo.”
Simon Blaxill, Chair of the We Are Colchester partnership, said:
“We are delighted to see this progress on the journey to bringing Jumbo back into use and that our successful Town Deal funding bid will help make this happen.”
Earlier this year, Historic England awarded a project development grant of £20,000 to support investigative works at the Balkerne Water Tower, affectionately known as Jumbo.
Tony Calladine, Regional Director, Historic England (East of England) said:
“The ‘Jumbo’ Water Tower is a significant and much-loved local landmark in Colchester. As the tallest and most intact municipal water tower in England, it is a nationally important heritage site. Although there are challenges ahead for Jumbo, I’m delighted to see the future of this important building secured, and look forward to working with North Essex Heritage as it develops its exciting plans so that Jumbo can once again play a central role in Colchester community life.”
David Balcombe, North Essex Heritage director, said:
“The vital survey work funded by Historic England and the Architectural Heritage Fund highlighted that there are some significant structural concerns with Jumbo. We have identified a way forward to halt the deterioration and repair work will form the basis of the work necessary to enable the renaissance of the building.
“The support of these organisations, together with the We Are Colchester Town Deal monies, means that now we have leased Jumbo, this exciting community project can finally move forward. We are delighted that, after many years of hard work by Colchester and North Essex Building Preservation Trust, known as North Essex Heritage, and other local people, the restoration project at Jumbo has been kick-started.
We are also looking forward to working with the Balkerne Tower Trust on a suitable lighting scheme for Jumbo.”