THE firm behind the Tollgate Village development has provided a new distribution centre for Colchester Foodbank.

Stanway-based Tollgate Partnership Limited has handed over the former Office World at Tollgate Retail Park to the foodbank for the next 18 months.

The 10,000 sq ft building is five times the size of the foodbank’s current distribution centre at Moorside, Colchester, and will allow volunteers to receive, sort and distribute donations more efficiently.

Foodbank chief executive officer Mike Beckett said: “We are so grateful to Tollgate Partnership Limited which will make a big difference to us.

“The huge building will allow us to provide a much better service safely in a post-Covid world. Moorside has been too small for us since 2015.”

The £70million Tollgate Village, when completed, will feature an eight-screen cinema, nine restaurants, 3,240 sq m of leisure floorspace and shops totalling 22,000 sq m.

Jayne Gee, a director of Tollgate Partnership Limited, said: “We really wanted to help everyone who is struggling in these difficult times, so we offered the use of former Office World building.

“We are in awe of the work the foodbank does and we are excited by their plans to provide additional much-needed services to the community.”

“This building will eventually form part of Tollgate Village and we didn’t want it to be empty until work gets under way on that phase of the development when it could be put to such a worthwhile use.”

There are also plans for the new distribution centre, which will open on Monday, February 1, to add a Tots and Teens equipment and uniform exchange.

Last year was the foodbank’s busiest in its history, with 6,001 food parcels being distributed between April and September.

This was up from 4,073 during the same period in 2019, an increase of about 47 per cent.

Maldon and Burnham Standard: Mike BeckettMike Beckett

Mr Beckett said: “2021 looks like it will be our busiest year ever.

“If Covid is sorted by the summer and if Brexit turns out to be a success then 2020 may remain as our busiest year ever, but it looks like we might have an economic downturn in 2021.”