In recent decades Colchester has achieved exceptional and consistent growth in homes with a buoyant and diverse economy. It is a forward looking Borough with many facets. The historic walled hill town still commands the Colne valley with the former Hythe port to the east leading to Mersea Island and to the north the Stour Valley and Constable Country of the Dedham Vale AONB. Colchester is much more then Britain’s ‘Oldest Recorded Town’, with a rich and diverse history dating back to the Iron Age. Today Colchester is a diverse and thriving Borough, with a vibrant town centre at the heart of one of the country’s most dynamic and varied towns, surrounded by attractive rural settlements and important landscapes. It has a proud military history still hosting the Army Garrison whose built heritage is now celebrated in a regenerated conservation area. Today, the University of Essex is a key economic driver of business innovation and growth.

The town’s present character reflects a rich heritage, including its period as the Roman capital of Britain, its importance as a wool and cloth centre in medieval and Tudor times, and its focus as a hub for Victorian and 20th century industry with engineering and printing now eclipsed by creative business enterprises and the University Of Essex campus. The numerous archaeological sites, historic buildings, and conservation areas in the Borough celebrate this impressive heritage. These include the most complete Town Wall of Roman origin encircling the historic core, the Norman Castle and Castle Park in the heart of the Town Centre, and ‘Jumbo’, the Victorian water tower. The town is also defined by its hilltop setting and the green corridor through the Town provided by the River Colne Valley.

To the east of the town is an ecologically rich coastal environment as recognised by international and national designations. The attractive surrounding rural settlements also have a rich heritage, including the seafaring communities of Mersea Island and Wivenhoe, the former wool town of Dedham and the nationally famous jam-making centre of Tiptree.

Postwar growth to the present day has significantly enlarged the town and reflects changes in design thinking over this time:

  • 1919-1950s – relatively low density garden city informed suburbs;
  • 1960s-70s - the brave new modernist world of car-based highway infrastructure, pedestrianised shopping precincts, innovative housing estates where cars and pedestrians were segregated and monolithic building blocks;
  • 1980s-90s – traditionally styled estates, though also characterised by detached housing and cul-de-sacs; and
  • 2000s - the conscious return of relatively accessible and high density urban development.

Design quality is particularly relevant in Colchester today, given the need to generate local support for planned growth, attract inward investment, complement historic assets, minimise impact on landscape setting and promote sustainable transport in order to meet contemporary needs and aspirations. Not least this will help to ensure growth and regeneration leave a lasting positive place-making legacy.

Colchester Borough Council Local guidance Countywide / Subregional Not currently available
Local Development Plan      
Adopted Local Plan    
Emerging Local Plan    
Development Viability      
Developer Contributions    
Greater Essex Growth and Infrastructure Framework (GIF)    
Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL)      
Development and Urban Design      
Neighbourhood planning    
Planning Policy      
Design Guidance    
Parking Policy    
Health and Wellbeing      
Health Impact Assessment(HIA)    
Accessible and Adaptable Dwellings    
National Space Standards    
Essex Insight Public Health Profile    
Open Space Appraisal    
Open Space Strategy    
Playing Pitch Assessment    
Climate Change and Flood Risk      
Strategic Flood Risk Assessment (SFRA)    
Water Cycle Study    
Surface Water Management Plan (SWMP)      
Sustainable Drainage Systems Design Guide  
Environment Quality      
Landscape Character Assessment    
Green Space Strategy    
Historic Characterisation    
Local Wildlife Site Review    
Conservation Appraisal    
Transport and Communications Infrastructure      
Highways Standards    
Cycling Strategy    
Local Transport Plan    
Protected Lanes    
Economy & Retails      
Economic Development Needs Assessment (EDNA)      
Retail Needs Assessment      
Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA)    
Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA)    
Gypsy & Traveller Accommodation Assessment  
Green Belt      
Green Belt Functions Assessment    
Green Belt Landscape Assessment    
Green Belt Boundary Review    


Page updated: 3/09/2019

Make the most of the Essex Design Guide, register today

As well as ensuring you are always in the know about future changes and updates to the Essex Design Guide, registering with us will enable to you to add and manage bookmarks throughout the site, so your most-used areas of the guide are always easy to find.

Register for updates

© 2024 Copyright Essex County Council. All rights reserved.