ESSEX County Council is taking legal advice over Colchester Council's bid to use legal powers to press ahead with an unpopular £40 million student flats development.

County Hall holds a restrictive covenant over the town's old bus station, off Queen Street, part of the site where Alumno is set to build 336-student flats, a hotel and retail units.

Colchester Council's cabinet is set to approve using legal powers to temporarily remove access rights for residents and businesses in the area to allow construction to begin.

Read more >>> Colchester Council to use legal powers to get £40m scheme moving

There are fears similar legal powers are set to be used to remove this restrictive covenant.

Leader of Essex County Council David Finch said: "In recent months we have had discussions with Colchester Council about the Alumno development in an attempt to resolve the outstanding issue of the covenant, but most importantly to see if Colchester could pursue a more suitable use of the site than the one currently proposed.

“These conversations have not reached a conclusion so it is disappointing to see Colchester proceed to their cabinet with this decision, especially as it is a decision I do not believe we were consulted on.

“There are outstanding issues relating to this site Colchester Council have not yet responded to.

"One key issue is the council clearly intends to dispose of this site, having signed an agreement with Alumno to this effect.

“It is our belief in this case Colchester Council is legally required to offer to sell the land to Essex County Council, which it has not done."

Maldon and Burnham Standard: Concerned - Essex County Council leader David Finch says County Hall is seeking legal adviceConcerned - Essex County Council leader David Finch says County Hall is seeking legal advice

He added: "I have been left with no option but to ask my officers to instruct counsel on this matter to gain further legal clarity.”

David King, Colchester Council’s business boss, said: “We have offered to meet and have made clear we respect their rights on the site, which are not changed by our review, but we need to see their alternative proposal and any independent advice they would care to share.”

Maldon and Burnham Standard: Cllr David King..Cllr David King..

Robert Mercer, of Colchester Civic Society, said residents' human rights were being compromised upon by the move.

He said: "The Civic Society remains concerned the council is so determined to help the developer, whatever the cost, they are losing sight of the wishes and the legal rights of Colcestrians.

"We should bear in mind that there is also a covenant of this land, protecting it for the people of Colchester, which the cabinet is also being asked to ignore.

"We hope Colcestrians will, again, make their feelings known to their councillors as soon as possible as the cabinet meets next Wednesday."