On our architectural inheritance in Southend-on-Sea

We are blessed in many ways, those of us who reside in Southend-on-Sea. Despite the occasional ravages of bad taste development we still have a fine stock of Victorian and Edwardian architecture. The ward I am privileged to represent is especially enriched by its architectural heritage, and having five conservation areas in the ward is a testament to this.

I think we are beholden to ensure that the inheritance that we enjoy today is passed on to future generations. Whilst I do not for a moment think, or suggest, that no modernisation should be allowed, I do think we have to carefully consider if what we change will be the source of regret in the years to come.

Not everything old is good, and sometimes it is awful. But I believe that the town is enhanced by what has survived the ravages of time and the depredations of those for whom profit supplants all. I would guess that Royal Terrace is the most photographed street in Southend, a testament to old architecture and conservation ideals.

The town is a draw to tourists, and the old buildings play a role in this. From the iconic pier, to Royal Terrace, the Priory and Southchurch Hall, Porters too, and just as important are the legions of fine streets that show the town in all its glory. These not only enhance the lives of those who live here, they help the town’s economy too.

This week we have witnessed another Development Control Committee pass its judgement over a lengthy list of planning applications. In some ways this is a testament to a forward thinking town, that so much is being planned. I just hope that whilst pleasing everyone is nigh impossible, we will move forward in a way that is sympathetic to the character of a Victorian seaside resort.

The Leas conservation area

Current

Current

The following maps are from the leas conservation area appraisal by Southend-on-Sea Borough Council.

This area covers parts of both Milton and Chalkwell wards.

Proposed

Proposed

My words at Development Control, today, in respect of the latest planning application for The Leas sun shelter

Many here present will recall my 55th birthday, for that was when we last discussed the Sun Shelter. On November 12th 2014 the suggestion for a rotunda on the roof of the shelter was rejected by the Development Control Committee.

It may be remembered that the suggestion for a rooftop structure at this site, which lies within the Leas Conservation Area, was rejected, in part anyway, because it was considered out of character for the area.

Many then were of the opinion that the Waites were nothing if not persistent; and so it has been proved. Today you are being asked to approve another plan for the roof, albeit one that it is being described as temporary.

I will give credit to the Waite family for one thing – they do have a certain facility for uniting popular opinion. Almost everyone who lives within the vicinity of the sun shelter is united in opposing any change to the roof.

You will have seen a number of email exchanges, and this application has been a significant feature of my inbox for several months. It has to be said that the antics of the developer has brought suspicion upon themselves, and I believe that trust has been damaged.

This is to be regretted, because their original plans were welcomed. And their proposals would be welcomed again if only they would abandon plans to extend the cafe beyond the sun shelter and the ground immediately in front of it.

The current proposals hinge on the placement of air conditioning equipment. All sorts of alterations have been made to the roof in anticipation of the developer being able to get their own way. This is an affront to how we should operate, and in of itself should be enough for a ‘no’ vote. How can you go ahead and vandalise public property without proper consent? I am outraged.

In amongst the mass of emails it would appear that the Council has been aware of what the developer was doing, although I have to say that there is an air of confusion about who knows what, and when. I confess to not being entirely on sure ground with this application, because there has been some inconsistency in what has been presented as fact.

I hope I am a reasonable person. A genuinely temporary structure that once removed (with a strict timetable) would see the balcony restored to former glories is a compromise I would be content with. However, I am less than convinced that residents, at present anyway, will be so easily assuaged.

I urge all who sit on DCC to send a signal that their authority is sacrosanct, and that any alteration to the roof of the sun shelter is not welcomed, and will not be allowed. And, if they are so minded to approve a temporary structure, I would encourage a firm and strict timetable be put in place, with equally strict requirements for the putting right of the balcony upon its removal.

Tracks no more

Station Road, Westcliff-on-Sea

Station Road, Westcliff-on-Sea

I am pleased to note that the long-standing eyesore that was Tracks has been bought and looks like it will be an eyesore no more. It was not just an eyesore, it was also a home for vermin, a magnet for the homeless, and the subject of much grumbling from its neighbours.

I am not able to claim the credit for this undoubted improvement, not all of it anyway. But I have been vocal in my condemnation of its dilapidated state, and have sought, and achieved, council officer intervention on several occasions.

So, I do claim a little credit. I believe that my prodding has encouraged about change, even if only to wake up the previous owners to the reality of this (former) blight on the community.

Those dancing pigeons will now have to seek a new home.

Some may wish to object to this ……

In this week’s planning application list:

APPLN. NO: 15/00155/FULM

Officer: Charlotte Galforg Date Valid. 6 March 2015

DEMOLISH EXISTING BUILDING, ERECT 5 STOREY BUILDING COMPRISING 24 SELF CONTAINED FLATS WITH GROUND FLOOR RESTAURANT AND BASEMENT PARKING, LAYOUT AMENITY AREA, REFUSE AND CYCLE STORAGE AND LANDSCAPING, FORM NEW VEHICULAR ACCESS ONTO WESTERN ESPLANADE.

THE ESPLANADE WESTERN ESPLANADE SOUTHEND ON SEA

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

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