Yet another scheme that looks like it fails actual housing need

redabMy inbox received this piece of advertising, and an email which contained the following:

My company represents Redab which recently acquired the Esplanade Site on the seafront. Redab will soon be applying for planning permission to build new apartments and a restaurant on the site and if approved, will come with a host of energy saving, environment friendly green credentials.

Because there is considerable interest from the media in this scheme we felt that, out of courtesy, you should be aware of what is being proposed before reading about it in the local Echo so I hope you will not mind being contacted directly with this information.

You should also be aware that we are currently talking to Metal about the possibility of using the white wall area of the proposed building for an artwork, should planning permission be granted.

I responded with a simple question: How many of the units will provide low-cost and affordable housing, and how many will be set aside for social housing?

This elicited the following response:

Because of the nature of this particular site, which as you are aware is very prone to cliff slippage, we have not been able to make any provision for social housing.

We have calculated that some £1.25M of our budget will be needed to secure the adjacent cliff area which is owned by the council. While these savings will obviously benefit the whole community who enjoy and use the seafront it sadly leaves no budget for anything else.

However, we hope this will enable the local authority to use those savings where it is needed most.

One could argue that the slippage has already been sorted, although I do not doubt further work may be needed. I can definitely argue that the housing shortage locally is not likely to be addressed by this scheme.

How areas of Southend-on-Sea compare as regards to average sales values

CIL1This map is reproduced from the Community Infrastructure Levy: Viability Study Prepared for Southend-on-Sea Borough Council (May 2014).

It shows the average sales values in Southend-on-Sea. The data is described as “based on research on the local housing market and data from other identified sources”.

Whilst the figures have doubtless moved on in the seven months since this was produced, it is useful in illustrating how different areas of the borough compare.

Area Ave values £s

Two simultaneous developments along the seafront

I was asked to write a brief comment about the two developments proposed for areas very close to the seafont in Southend-on-Sea – namely the proposals for the Marine Plaza and the Seaway Car Park. Here is what I wrote, and this appears in today’s Southend Echo.

Notwithstanding my concerns over whether the Seaway Car Park is the right place for the proposed development, the simple answer as to whether a development here and at the Marine Plaza undertaken at the same time is a good idea comes down to a matter of timing.

Doing both developments at the same time does have the benefit of getting all the disruption out of the way all in one go. Whilst it could be argued that this maximises the pain and disruption whilst the works are being undertaken, the closeness of the two projects may also mean that some of the local improvements that will doubtless be required may be able to be shared.

Doing the work during the quiet periods of late autumn and winter should cause minimal interference to both trade and the lives of residents. However, if the works overspill into the local high season then this has the potential to be disastrous for those businesses reliant on the increased footfall that occurs when the sun is out. This is why the timetable is so important.

There are questions, though, that need to be answered about the road infrastructure in the vicinity, and whether it can cope with the extra traffic both whilst the sites are being developed, and once they are up and running. There are a number of bottlenecks that already see congestion at busy times; this is why the site of the Seaway development is so questionable. Whilst I welcome anything that brings extra jobs and housing to the town, I cannot help but wonder why this is being squeezed into an already crowded and busy area – surely a site adjacent to the A127 and Eastern Avenue corridor would not only be more accessible, but also not add to the overcrowding seen in the town centre wards.

UKIP Parliamentary candidate is rude about a resident, and refuses to retract comments

Councillors do not always agree with their residents. However, until this week I have not heard a councillor publicly describe a resident as “nosey” , “interfering“, and “a complainer“.

Cllr Floyd Waterworth’s (UKIP, Blenheim Park) outburst at Development Control Committee was challenged by Labour members present, and he declined their offer to retract what he said.

Thus, it appears that UKIP Parliamentary candidates see it as acceptable to be rude about residents in a public forum.

As one councillor later commented: “Don’t go to UKIP if you have problem neighbours! Don’t bother with UKIP if your neighbour is in breach of planning rules.

Cllr Waterworth tried to vote down a recommendation to take enforcement action at a property which had a legitimate extension and conservatory, but added high level decking and a pergola which fell outside of the consent.

This is not the first time Cllr Waterworth has been belligerent in Planning Committee. His is normally a silent presence, perhaps mindful of Mark Twain’s advice.

If Cllr Waterworth thinks it acceptable to be rude about residents and to not defend their best interests then I hope he goes back to his old strategy of saying nought.

Change fish and chip shop to flat

APPLN. NO: 14/01872/FUL

Officer: Patricia Coyle Date Valid. 19 November 2014

CHANGE USE OF GROUND FLOOR FROM FISH AND CHIP SHOP (CLASS A3) TO SELF-CONTAINED FLAT (CLASS C3), ALTER FRONT ELEVATION AND LAYOUT CAR PARKING SPACE TO REAR

198 STATION ROAD WESTCLIFF-ON-SEA ESSEX

This area already has problems with shops converted into flats. This has resulted in daily rubbish collections – a rarity in a borough where almost everywhere else has a weekly collection.

If this conversion is to be allowed then sufficient amenity space must be incorporated to allow for the storage of rubbish sacks, food caddies, and the like.

That which I sat through – Development Control Committee

I attended Development Control Committee yesterday afternoon. Actually, I attended part of it. I left after just under three and a half hours, once the application I was interested in was dealt with.

Development is a contentious issue, and I do not envy the seventeen councillors tasked with scrutinising these. Aside from the occasional fraught nature of the proceedings, I was impressed with the somewhat tortuous process that meant that it took over an half and a half to just deal with the first item; there was something like twenty-one applications on the agenda.

Democratic oversight is important, and I would much rather see elected members deal with applications than officers whose accountability is zero.

The first application dealt with was in respect of land between Barge Pier Road and Ness Road. This land has already been granted planning permission for commercial purposes, and so could be concreted over in its entirety tomorrow. The application was to change this so that some houses could be built. I will be honest, I could see little wrong with the application. Flooding, of various types, was alluded to in the debate. The liability to flood must be less with housing as compared to factory units, you do not get gardens etc with commercial developments. Cllr Moyies (UKIP, West Shoebury) made an absurd reference to Archimedes. Archimedes’ displacement principle refers to measuring the mass of an object and has nothing to do with the dynamics of water flow. In the end the officer’s recommendation was rejected (5 votes to 11). It was then proposed that this item be deferred; this was carried by the Chair’s casting vote after a 6-6 tie.

Cllr Byford (Conservative, Eastwood Park) intervened to say that he was opposed because Essex is full up. This odd statement somewhat ignores the chronic housing shortage; I presume he is content to see the housing list remain as it is, to see aspirant home-owners perpetually denied, and to see youngsters staying at home indefinitely. Cllr Byford contributes little to debates normally, and after this intervention I see no reason to encourage him.

There was also mention made to the local infrastructure which is deemed inadequate to cope with the extra cars, school children, etc. There is merit in this argument, although a commitment to improving this in the east of the borough will only incentivise developers, in my humble opinion.

Cllr Moyies left muttering something about a lack of democracy. I am not sure what he objected to, it seemed an open and fair debate to me.

There was also a debate about a street tree in Salisbury Road (Leigh-on-Sea). This was also deferred (motion carried 11-0). I confess to not understanding why this was deferred. (I am also perplexed why we had abstentions in this and other votes – I thought we were elected to make decisions not pass the buck.)

And so onto the Shelter, Western Esplanade – otherwise known as The Leas or sun shelter. I was delighted that the officer’s recommendation was rejected and this application was refused. Cllr Jonathan Garston (Conservative, Milton) gave the most lucid speech I have heard him make, and I am grateful to him for his support. The vote to refuse was carried 11-5; three Tories, one Independent and a Liberal Democrat were content to see the erection of a single storey glazed rotunda above the shelter.

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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