The Leas Shelter development proposal speech

Below is the speech I gave at Development Control Committee earlier this afternoon. I am pleased to be able to report the residents and I won – the application was rejected by eleven votes to five.

The borough of Southend-on-Sea has a wealth of architectural delights and this is reflected in the number of Conservation Areas that exist locally. Milton ward has five conservation areas, and this proposed development sits within the Leas Conservation Area.

To be honest, though, it is not all good news as regards to conservation in this corner of Essex, and some frankly ghastly buildings have been allowed construction in recent times. I am no NIMBY, but I am banging the drum that says we should cherish our heritage.

Conservation and conservation areas are not just about buildings – Milton, for instance, is blessed with some truly gorgeous gardens bequeathed to future generations by the far-sighted who graced this place before our arrival. I hope we can continue this fine tradition.

Anyone who has visited the sun shelter that is the subject of application number 14/01507/BC4 recently will be aware of the contrasting bouquets one is assailed with, for competing with the fine array of flowering plants is the all too recognisable stench of urine. The shelter itself oft becomes home to all sorts of human detritus. It is no longer used for the purposes it was built for, and news of its re-development was welcomed by me, and by the over-whelming majority of people I have spoken with.

My objection, and I believe the objections of those residing nearby, has nothing to do with the proposals for an eaterie within the sun shelter itself. Providing the architectural integrity of the sun shelter remains then this is a welcome development.

All objections rest on the proposal for a rotunda on the roof of the sun shelter.

I wrote the following when submitting my objection to the plans as they currently stand:

it is clear that any development here must not be intrusive, spoil the character of the conservation area it is situated in, or diminish public access to a much cherished public resource. This proposal fails on all three counts. It fails to satisfy because of the proposal to build above the shelter. Erecting a single storey glazed rotunda above the shelter should not be allowed to go ahead. The rotunda will visually impact residents in the area, and is liable to cause noise nuisance. The proposed late opening times will exacerbate this, and those who currently enjoy quiet sea views will likely see this ended. This old shelter is an important piece of the conservation area jigsaw, and its development will change this. However, whilst the development remains at ground floor level the change will be reasonably discrete; adding onto the roof will substantially alter its character, to the detriment of the vicinity. The roof is currently used by passing pedestrians, being a good viewing platform for Westcliff-on-Sea beach and the estuary. A rotunda will deny this amenity to future visitors.

Residents are often more eloquent than me on this subject, and you will have received many of their objections.

A rotunda, and any additional seating placed on the roof, turns an otherwise welcomed development into something definitely not welcomed. I am minded to note that having received favourable responses about her initial plans, the applicant has then over-reached herself. I hope that a desire to maximise profits has not clouded her judgement.

I think that the success of this project does, in significant measure, depend on the goodwill of its neighbours, many of whom will form its local customer base. Alienation of the neighbours does not make business sense.

However, it is not for commercial reasons that I wish to see this application refused. I return to my opening remarks in which I spoke about the heritage of the borough and how it must be cherished. Please do not allow this area to be spoiled.

And to the applicant I make this entreaty – scale back your plans and keep to the original idea of a ground level development only and I, and those residents with whom I have spoken, will back you.

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