Conservation issues have forced a Sir Robert McAlpine-led consortium to make substantial revisions to a planning application for the Ministry of Defence's £1bn Colchester barracks PFI scheme.
The RMPA Services consortium, which includes facilities manager Sodexho and consultant Atkins, made the changes after consulting Colchester council and interest groups such as English Heritage.

Several elements have been altered since the original planning application in January last year, including replacing an underpass with a bridge to retain trees and hedgerows. Other changes were made to protect bats.

Archaeological work has also led to the retention of several buildings because of their heritage value; 90 ha will be used as public space.

The council is now holding a public consultation exercise, with the aim of granting full planning permission early next year.

Charles Barrington, project director at RMPA, said: "The achievement of this milestone means we are closer to planning certainty and therefore able to progress the finalisation of the agreements between RMPA Services and the MoD for the new garrison."

The project will provide accommodation for 3500 military personnel and at least 200 civilians. The scheme is expected to be completed by 2009.