Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Colchester Jumbo Water Tower

This week I climbed the 155 steps to the top of the tower.
It's a bit more than grim inside, it's been graffitied and disresprected in other ways and the pigeons have moved in. It's dark in places on the way up and the bannister rope runs out intermittently.
So why did I do it?

Simply because it may turn out to be my only chance. It's been in the hands of a developer for the last few years and has had several planning applications made. They've failed. But then the idea of a restaurant, a couple of floors of flats and a token museum is a bit much for this building to have squashed in. It has listed building status and occupies a prime spot in the town, visible from miles around. Currently the only occupants are the homeless who take shelter in the feet of Jumbo and the pigeons.

Now it's up for auction again. The owner has ploughed enough of his money into architect fees for failed applications. Clearly any planning application can only fail if it doesn't conform to planning guidelines so it's not an issue of people being precious with their landmarks.
A realistic business plan, one that doesn't alter the structure but does allow everyone to enjoy the building has been put forward time and again by Balkerne Tower Trust. It will mean restoring the tower to it's former glory. It won't mean a  penthouse pad with no parking and a million pound price tag. It won't mean a restaurant in the sky but it will mean access to the top (nearly). Initially there won't be access to the top for disabled people but that's the case with a fair few listed buildings. It's a shame but they simply weren't built in a time when access had to be there.

Jumbo is up for auction on 29th May 2014. Balkerne Tower Trust are trying to raise as much as possible beforehand. It is a very real case of David vs Goliath and they need help. Any donations are returnable should they not succeed with their bid.
If you'd like a chance to visit in the future to see the view almost across Essex, to have a look at the proposed museum or just simply because you can, like I did, then please do wander over to the website and donate anything from £2 upwards to help them buy it.
I'll see you up there!

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