Southend Central Area Action Plan

Ended on the 9th August 2010
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7. The Quarters and Key Sites

7.1 The Victorias

The Character of the Area

Existing Form: This area which is situated on either side of Victoria Avenue forms a gateway to the town centre. It is characterised by high rise and civic buildings and Southend Victoria Railway Station.

With the exception of the court building, library and civic offices, the architecture of the remaining buildings is bland and uninspiring, symbolic of speculative office building in the 1960s and 1970s. The former South Essex College Campus buildings are currently empty awaiting either redevelopment or conversion.

Land Use: The predominant land uses are offices to the west of Victoria Avenue and civic uses to the east including a magistrate’s court, council offices, library and police station.

Activity: During a normal working day there is significant pedestrian movement along Victoria Avenue to the railway station and the town centre. The road is also a principal access route for vehicles to the town centre, the seafront and beyond. The volume of vehicular movements along the main roads presents a significant barrier for pedestrians and cyclists moving between the urban Quarters. Some improvements are however underway including the redesign of Victoria Square that will create more direct routes and activity spaces around the station.

Transformation

A planning brief is being prepared to help guide the regeneration and redevelopment of this area with the intention to adopt the brief as a Supplementary Planning Document in 2010. The brief will be subject to consultation and after adoption it will inform the submission version of this plan.

Sites

Land East and West of Victoria Avenue

Leading Land Use Workspace, residential and civic uses
Supporting Land Uses Hotel, limited bars and restaurants and leisure, health and fitness, local small retail, public realm and green space
Locations Throughout the area ground floors should be active with bars, restaurants, leisure, and local retail as commercial viability allows.
Supplementary Guidance The Southend Central Area Masterplan contains further advice and a planning brief is also in preparation which will, once adopted, provide more detailed guidance.
Urban Design Victoria Avenue will become a sustainable mixed use Quarter with enhancements to the formal Boulevard character of the street befitting its gateway status.
 
The Quarter will be transformed with a new mix of uses including offices, residential, civic functions, commercial and local retail, hotel and health and fitness facilities.
 
The existing environment will need to be largely remodelled to accommodate a more complex, fine-grained and sustainable urban form that is capable of sufficient commercial and economic robustness to avoid future redundancy, as has been the legacy.

Option Box 7

Alternative options could include:

(6) 7a Allow the amount of office space to significantly reduce, in favour of a more residential community

and/or

(4) 7b Encourage further and higher education provision

7.2 London Road Broadway

The Character of the Area

Existing Form:The area is defined by Queensway to the north with principal buildings fronting on to London Road. It forms one of several entry points to the town centre and High Street. The area is characterised by a varied architecture dominated by three larger buildings, the Odeon Cinema, Sainsbury’s food store and the new high rise development currently under construction that will provide residential accommodation for students, a new public car park and new retail and restaurant units on the ground floor.

The arrangement and siting of buildings on the ground make the area relatively impermeable from the north. Pedestrians wishing to enter the area from the Victorias and the railway station to the north have to follow inconvenient and indirect routes to access London Road and the High Street although the current reconfiguration of Victoria Square will bring about some improvements.

Land Use:The dominant land uses are the cinema together with a range of cafes and restaurants. The banking sector is also represented together with some retail outlets. The western end of London Road is anchored by a medium sized Sainsbury food store.

Activity: The area has become transformed in recent years into an active café and restaurant Quarter that provides a buoyant day time and evening attraction. Consequently there is significant pedestrian activity in the area including movements to and from the High Street. There is a taxi rank in London Road which is one of the principal dropping off and picking up points for the town centre. The street is very wide and this encourages private cars to also use London Road to drop off and pick up passengers. This contributes to significant vehicle movements and high levels of pedestrian activity which restricts potential alternative uses.

Character Area Proposals

There is some uncertainty over the future of the Sainsburys foodstore. In the event of Sainsburys finding an alternative site, London Road will play a key role in providing urban scale and quality to complement Victoria Avenue. In this eventuality, the Borough Council will bring forward a detailed planning brief to help orchestrate the reshaping of the Sainsburys site whilst also capitalising on the opportunities this may bring to addressing some of the existing weaknesses of the area.

Improved linkages will be provided to Victoria Square and the proposed new crossing points for pedestrians moving to and from the Victorias Quarter and the railway station. Alongside greater permeability and an enhanced network of public spaces, London Road will be an attractive location for landmark office development, and enhanced retail and leisure offer and residential units at upper levels.

In the event of Sainsburys staying, either in their current format or a revised type of store, significant opportunities to enhance the location still exist.

Old College Square and Victoria Circus are to be refurbished and remodelled to improve the street scene. In conjunction with this the Council has agreed that the eastern part of London Road could possibly be partially pedestrianised in order to extend the High Street pedestrian area. In addition there is the potential for new pedestrian connections to extend the existing street pattern from London Road to Queensway and to Elmer Square. Allied to this, perpendicular [or echelon] on-street car parking could be introduced in the western section of London Road along with a new taxi rank.

Sites

Leading Land Uses Offices, retail, food and drink and leisure
Supporting Land Uses Residential
Locations Ground floors should be active with bars, restaurants, leisure, banks and retail. Offices and residential should be located predominately on upper floors.
Supplementary Guidance
 
 
The Southend Central Area Masterplan contains further advice and guidance. In addition, should Sainsburys decide to either vacate or remodel their store, a planning brief will be prepared to guide the future planning process.
Urban Form The opportunity exists, should Sainsburys relocate, for a landmark development to define the space between Victoria Station and a reconfigured Queensway and London Road. The city scale of the town centre should be signalled by urban scaled blocks to the Queensway elevation. The provision of active retail frontages to Queensway coupled with possible arcaded entry to the High Street that incorporates integrated signage and artwork to building elevations would all combine to signal entry to the core town centre.
 
The Odeon building could be expanded to accommodate more cinema screens and/or retail frontages. In addition the Odeon elevation to the passage leading to Victoria Circus could be redesigned to create active frontages to the High Street and Queensway.

Option Box 8

-Should Sainsburys decide to vacate their site, alternative options could include:

(8) 8a - Redevelop with a smaller scale scheme comprising expansion of leisure and entertainment uses and a substantial area of public green space

and/or

(5) 8b – Relocate the Odeon Cinema to allow a comprehensive scheme to integrate Queensway and the High Street with active frontages to north and south.

and/or

(3) 8c - Realign the Queensway Road corridor to the north to provide for a larger developable area at the Sainsburys site and potentially create a second frontage onto Queensway

and/or

(5) 8d - Redesign London Road to make it a more pleasant environment for people whilst retaining access for dropping off and picking up, taxis and night time car access to bars and restaurants.

and/or

(3) 8e - Redevelop an area between the Odeon Cinema and Sainsburys to provide an urban ‘pocket park’.

7.3 The High Street

The Character of the Area

Existing Form:The High Street is almost 800 metres in length. It lacks landmarks and points of interest to counteract this length and linearity although the railway bridge and road crossings do act as reference points. There is an opportunity to differentiate the distinct character zones that it passes through. It is for the most part pedestrianised and it is, in terms of function, the single unifying element linking all the Quarters of the central area with each other.

The repaving that was carried out 7 years ago, although reasonably well-executed, concentrates attention on a heavily patterned floorscape that will be in need of replacement in phases over the next 5-10 years.

Despite the High Street being on an axis to the coast, due to levels there is no sense of the sea until the landmark lift tower and the sea itself come into view towards its southern end. Although the lift, ramps and stairs are designed to improve access down to the seafront, the termination of the High Street is weak and requires a clearly defined public space to help orientate the visitor and to mark the transition between town and sea - a space to pause and enjoy the magnificent views.

To the north, the High Street is severed from Victoria Station and Victoria Avenue and the Civic Centre by the new retail unit at Victoria Shopping Centre and the Victoria Circus roundabout. A scheme to remodel Victoria Square will be completed by March 2011 which will improve permeability and access to and from the town centre in conjunction with the other proposals for the London Road Quarter described above.

In terms of urban form the High Street not only feels too long and linear, but it also lacks quality and character that ought to be reinforced by landmarks to give it a rhythm and legibility although the new University buildings, particularly where they punch through to the High Street, demonstrate opportunities and solutions for the future. The character and quality of building facades is inconsistent. There is no sense of the sea. There are poor visual and physical connections to the Quarters to the east and west where the potential exists for the expansion of the town centre on the shoulders of the High Street.

Land Use: The High Street contains the usual range of major multiple retail outlets normally associated with a sub regional centre. The High Street is anchored at either end by shopping precincts, The Victoria and The Royals Shopping Centres, although even these lack the quality feel of competing malls in nearby towns. The retail units in the High Street are interspersed with cafes, restaurants, coffee bars, banks and building societies. The central section is dominated by South Essex College and the University of Essex which has introduced an added vibrancy to the area. The upper floors of buildings along the High Street are used in part for office and educational uses but many upper floors are vacant and poorly maintained

The Council has commissioned a further Retail Study that will provide advice on future policy for retail and other town centre uses including the night time economy. This study will be used to inform the submission version of this Plan.

Activity: There are strong pedestrian movements along and across the High Street at certain times of the day although the retail circuits are poorly defined and there are problems of permeability, legibility and connection to the Quarters to the east and west. Vehicles cross the High Street at a number of locations and a short section is open to traffic. Southend Central railway station and the Travel Centre are both located within a short walking distance of the High Street.

Character Area Proposals

The Council, has commissioned a new Retail Study. The final report will contain further advice on the future direction of retail policy in the town centre building on the foundations laid in the Central Area Masterplan.

This draft Plan reproduces the proposals and thinking from the Central Area Masterplan by seeking to re-define the High Street as a sequence of distinct episodes which respond to the strengthening and formation of the different Quarters east and west of the main retail route. The proposed retail circuit at Tylers expands the commercial core eastwards and the Clifftown Quarter to the west will be further brought alive and invigorated by cafes, bars, restaurants and creative enterprises day and night in addition to new residential provision.

The public realm could be redesigned to reinforce the aspirations of the Plan and the integration of old and new. Co-ordinated street scene improvements will be used to emphasise the east-west links, to create legible routes to public transport stops, to indicate new choices of movement and to mark junctions as significant events. Trees and other vertical interventions – public art, kiosks, seating and so on – will be used as permeable room dividers to break down the visual length of the High Street and to articulate the journey down it. Historic and new key buildings and vistas could be enhanced by a strategic lighting strategy and by artwork. Consideration should be given to bringing the railway bridge to life. There is also an opportunity to introduce contemporary awnings and canopies to enliven the High Street experience.

The recent closure of the York Road Market presents an opportunity to consider alternatives. The Council, in conjunction with Renaissance Southend Limited, has commissioned a detailed assessment of the options. The outcome from this study will be used to inform the submission version of this Plan.

The Central Area Masterplan contained a proposal to allow taxis and service vehicles access along the High Street at strictly limited times. This would provide some ‘passive surveillance’ and could reduce potential community safety issues. It also accommodates flexibility to reintroduce other controlled traffic in the future, if required.

In any future scenario the High Street must be emphatically a public space for pedestrians, where vehicles enter by invitation. It will be an integrated shared surface, free of white-lining, tarmac, signage, railings and all the paraphernalia associated with highway engineering, where subtle cues in surfacing and layout encourage careful negotiation on the part of both pedestrians and motorists. In the short term, new interventions could be incorporated into the existing paving; a strategy will be developed for a coherent redesign of the floorscape, which may need replacement as redevelopment proceeds.

This plan carries forward the Central Area Masterplan proposals to transform the southern end of the High Street into Southend’s Balcony – a public space animated by remodelled active frontages associated with The Royals, the refurbished historic Palace Hotel and the extension of the public realm to the St John’s Quarter. The longer term vision is of a radical, landmark redevelopment which will connect the town to the Pier and Adventure Island by a series of multi-level indoor and outdoor destination spaces. In the shorter term it may be possible to create an upper level public piazza which would work independently as well as forming the first phase of the larger and longer term project.

Sites

Leading Land Uses Retail
Supporting Land Uses Cafes, restaurants, bars, banks, building societies, hotels, leisure uses, offices and residential
Locations Ground floors should be active with retail, restaurants, cafes and leisure uses. Offices and residential should be located on upper floors.
Supplementary Guidance
 
 
The Southend Central Area Masterplan contains further advice and guidance. In addition, planning briefs will be prepared for key sites to guide development and change.
Urban Form When redevelopment opportunities arise along the High Street frontage the Council will seek the use of strong vertical elements to reduce the perceived length of the High Street and to stress east-west connections.
 
It is anticipated that the majority of the existing stock of buildings along the High Street will remain and be enhanced over time by owners. In order to bring about improvements to the appearance and character of the different sections of the High Street the Council will prepare detailed guidance for the design of new shop fronts and for the re-cladding and decoration of existing buildings to guide building owners. Consideration will also be given as to how the ‘backs’ of High Street premises (particularly where they front onto Chichester Road) can be encouraged to project a more attractive and active frontage.
 
The Council will seek a unique design solution for the floorscape of the High Street in order to create a linear route that links the Quarters together and reflects their individual character alongside a programme to remove unnecessary signage and other visual clutter. The intersection of east–west routes will be emphasised by the creation of a strong public realm at significant junction points. The High Street has the potential to become a unique and special linear space that has all of the best characteristics of similar spaces in other European cities such as the ‘Ramblas’ in Barcelona and Strøget (literally "the sweep") in Copenhagen, Denmark - probably the longest pedestrian shopping Street in Europe.

Option Box 9

(7) 9a - Concentrate retail activity in the northern and southern sections of the High Street (in and around The Victorias and The Royals shopping centres) with cafes, bars, restaurants, banks and building societies and smaller scale retail uses in the central part of the High Street

and/or

(8) 9b – Extend major retail activity into the St John’s Quarter including the central seafront

or

(2) 9c - Follow a laissez-faire policy that allows the market to determine where retail and other town centre uses should be located in and along the High Street

7.4 Queensway and Southchurch

The Character of the Area

Existing Form:The area is dominated by a 1960s tower residential block, Quantock, and Queensway House which contains flats, a former health centre and a multi storey car park. Southchurch Road contains a mix of older, low rise, buildings that have a somewhat drab and rundown appearance. To the north of Queensway is a major development site (including former B&Q site, Focus Youth Centre and municipal car park). Queensway acts as both a major highway approach to the town centre and a ring road around the town centre. Its scale and highway orientated design of its immediate envelope mean that it tends to act as a barrier between the town centre and its outlying neighbourhoods. For pedestrians and cyclists, crossing the roads by way of underpasses and indirect routes can be unpleasant and counter-intuitive. In places, the footway is separated from the carriageway by stretches of grass and shrubs, resulting in areas of path which lack natural surveillance from passing cars and give the impression of being potentially unsafe. Queensway’s roundabouts and verges are amongst the most significant green wedges in the town centre, but as green spaces they are underused and could be redesigned to enhance their function as city gateways.

Land Use: Southchurch Road plays a role as a secondary retail and commercial frontage and health care provision. Beyond Southchurch Road the area is residential with a health centre and multi storey car park. To the north of Queensway adjacent to Victoria Station is a large development site and public car park and Focus Youth Centre

Activity: Southchurch Road is a principal route for traffic entering the town centre from the east in order to use the car parks in and around the Chichester Road area. Pedestrian footfall reflects the status of the street as a secondary shopping location and route to the primary shopping area on the High Street.

Character Area Proposals

Sites

Leading Land Uses Secondary retail
Supporting Land Uses Commercial, residential, health care and support, car parking
Locations The redevelopment of the plots in the quadrant between Southchurch Road, Queensway and Victoria Circus represents a major opportunity to transform the area.
A corner location fronting Queensway to the east would be the preferred location for major car park. Short Street development site location for supermarket led mixed use site
Supplementary Guidance
 
 
The Southend Central Area Masterplan contains further advice and guidance. In addition, planning briefs will be prepared for key sites to guide development and change.
Urban Form The Central Area Masterplan envisages greater definition of the boundary with Queensway with a mix of residential, retail and commercial uses. This area is also suitable for a substantial amount of car parking given easy access to the High Street and Queensway. The new Queensway neighbourhood will also benefit from closer connections with the new community quarter at Warrior Square. The Masterplan sets out eight principles:
  • Student residential and retail/commercial fronting on to a new public square;
  • Direct ground level link from the new public space to Victoria Circus;
  • Leisure facility provides a focus for the public space;
  • Enclosure of the rear of Southchurch road blocks provides continuous building frontage onto Chichester Road;
  • Walkway connects onto car parking podium roof utilised as outdoor amenity space;
  • Dense planting to Queensway contributes to the establishment of an ‘urban forest’ alongside this traffic route;
  • Refurbished retail, commercial frontages to Southchurch Road extend the high Street retail offer; and
  • Tall residential development to Queensway.
In relation to Queensway there is an opportunity to create more user friendly at-grade pedestrian and cycle crossings on the key east-west links. In addition a landscape design and public art scheme could be developed to open up and emphasise vistas at roundabouts, wherever appropriate and to plant the verges as an ‘urban forest.

Option Box 10

Alternative options could include:

(13) 10a – Comprehensively redevelop the area to provide new commercial office and residential uses linked to and including a large supermarket led development scheme on the former B&Q site on Short Street

or

(2) 10b – Limit redevelopment to the north side of Southchurch Road to include a new multi storey car park at the eastern end.

7.5 Elmer Square – Learning and Cultural Campus

The Character of the Area

Existing Form:Currently this area comprises a surface level car park and a multi-storey car park. Visually the area is dominated by the new buildings for the University and the rear of properties in the High Street to the east and south. Elmer Avenue consists of a terrace of residential properties that overlook this site from the west and the northern edge is formed by the Farringdon Service Road which backs on to the rear of the low rise secondary retail units in Queens Road. To the south there is a narrow link through to the High Street fronted by the vacant Prudential Office building.

Land Use: Elmer Square is in the heart of the University Campus on the edge of the town centre in an area of transition with the residential areas to the west. As noted above the dominant land use is car parking.

Activity: This is one of the main car park areas for the town centre. Consequently there are high levels of vehicle and pedestrian movements linked with the car parks. In addition the adjoining University buildings and residential area and the High Street shops add to the levels of pedestrian movement and activity.

Character Area Proposals

Sites

Leading Land Uses Education and library
Supporting Land Uses Hotel, retail, students union, cafes and residential uses adjoin this site.
Locations Southend has an increasingly important role as an educational and cultural hub, with the University of Essex forging a strong presence north of Southend Central Railway Station. Elmer Square represents a major opportunity to deliver the sustainable growth of higher and education and culture and will be the focus of the University and College continued expansion. The site will also enhance permeability with public realm improvements strengthening links to Queens Road, the High Street and towards the Southend Central Railway Station and the College and University.
Supplementary Guidance
 
 
In January 2009 the Council adopted a development brief for the site which had been prepared jointly with Renaissance Southend Limited.
Urban Form The aim of the Elmer Square Development Brief is to deliver a scheme incorporating:
  • A new 21st Century Library meeting both the requirements of a modern replacement for the current central library alongside the requirement of an expanding higher and further education sector in the town centre;
  • A new building of 11,000m2 for South Essex College to meet their expansion and growth needs in Southend;
  • A new building of 7,500m2 for the University of Essex incorporating new teaching space alongside growth in the University’s business incubation space.
  • Accommodation for Southend Adult Community College to enable it to establish a presence within the town centre, and
  • High quality public realm to be structured according to the main pedestrian route and vehicle routes and meeting points. A new public square of approximately 1,300m2 will be created to act as affront door to the building and be a busty and vibrant location next to the High Street. The square is defined by the landmark SEC building to the south.
Refurbish prudential building to provide more attractive façade, active and vibrant ground floor and enhanced route through to the High Street

Option Box 11

(4) Alternative options were considered during the preparation of both the Central Area Masterplan and the development brief described above. Given the status of the development brief it is no longer appropriate to consider alternative options.

7.6 Warrior Square Car Park and Adjoining Land

Warrior Square surface car park dominates the area. It is bounded to the east by Queensway, Whitegate Road to the south and Chichester Road to the west. The car park is interspersed with buildings comprising Warriors Swimming Pool, and several small scale offices in converted terraced villa style dwelling houses. To the north is one of the few green public open space in the town centre known as Warrior Square Gardens. The gardens are also bounded to the north and east by terraced villa type properties some of which are still in residential use. The Gardens and northern terrace are designated as a Conservation Area.

The Gardens are set for transformation as part a major landscaping project designed to turn the area into a stunning and welcoming outdoor amenity and allow it to reach its full potential as a town centre garden space.

Renaissance Southend Limited has recently commissioned a study to prepare a Masterplan and brief for the redevelopment of the car park area. The outcome of the study will be used to inform the submission version of this Plan.

Character Area Proposals

Sites

Leading Land Uses Mixed uses to include offices and residential
Supporting Land Uses small-scale retailing, restaurants and bars , and sympathetic car parking
Locations The area requires a comprehensive design solution that is capable of being developed in phases
Supplementary Guidance
 
 
Renaissance Southend Limited has commissioned the preparation of a development brief that will include an assessment of options for this site.
Urban Form The corner site on Queensway requires a prominent building that also addresses Warrior Square. An active frontage is required along the entire length of the site frontage to the Square and Chichester Road. There should be a lower massing on Whitegate Road deferring to site context. Consideration should also be given to the creation of a new street for residential frontages. There is the potential to incorporate site related car parking in the central part of the site underneath podium roof collective amenity areas.

Option Box 12

(8) What new facilities should be introduced into this area to enhance its vitality and viability?

7.7 Clifftown

The Character of the Area

Existing Form:This area lies to the south of the London to Southend railway line and west of the High Street. It includes the shops and other premises that form the west side of the High Street and the commercial and residential hinterland beyond.

A significant proportion within and around the area is designated as Clifftown Conservation Area.

Land Use: The area is characterised by retail, food and drink premises, commercial uses and residential. The Central Area Masterplan proposes to support the evolution of the Clifftown area as an area with a strong food, drink and retail offer. The main focus for this will be development opportunities on the Council owned Alexandra and Clarence car parks. Within the Conservation area the objective is to preserve or enhance the character or appearance of the area. This Quarter will also have a strong cultural identity, capitalising on the fine grain historic street form, attractive historic character and links to the Royal Terrace and the Cliffs. There is an opportunity for small studio style workspace in the area. Associated with improvements to Southend Central Railway Station, the redevelopment of Central House on Clifftown Road will pay a key role in redefining this part of the town centre.

Activity: The area is at the interface between the traditional High Street and the central Seafront. It therefore attracts visitors and day trippers as well as traditional shoppers. This multiplicity and overlap of functions means that the area has a special verve and vitality that transcends the seasons.

Character Area Proposals

Sites

Leading Land Uses Commercial, restaurants and bars, retail in proximity to the High Street, niche retail units.
Supporting Land Uses Residential
Locations The main locations for change are Southend Central Station, Clarence Road Car Park, and Alexandra Street Car Park.
Supplementary Guidance
 
 
The Southend Central Area Masterplan contains further advice and guidance. In addition, planning briefs will be prepared for key sites to guide development and change.
Urban Form The Central Area Masterplan sets out the key principles to guide change and development at the locations described below:
 
Southend Central Station
  1. Refurbishment of Southend Central Station buildings;
  2. Station forecourt cleared of surface level car parking and designed as a signature public space.
  3. Central House redeveloped for new larger retail units with frontage on High street and Clifftown Road; new office/residential development above; possible tall feature building; new public realm opportunities.
  4. Restored building elevations and new Shopfronts on Clifftown Road to extend the retail frontage around a new walking circuit;
Clarence Road Car Park
  1. Office/retail/residential blocks around public ‘workyards’;
  2. Thoroughfare from Nelson Street and Nelson Mews;
  3. New public square on the corner of Clarence Road and Alexandra Street with restricted access to service vehicles only;
  4. repaved street to designate ‘town heart’;
  5. Streetscape and landscape design designates a walking circuit through Clifftown from Southend Central Station to Pier Hill;
Alexandra Street Car Park
  1. Ground floor retail, food and drink units between 100m2 and 500 m2;
  2. New public lanes for small business opportunities and outdoor dining; restricted service vehicle access only;
  3. residential units above and behind;
  4. Possible new units or extensions to the back of the High Street units.

The character of the streets and spaces around Clarence Road and Alexandra Street should foster the growth of the small creative enterprises, small specialised niche retail units, workshops, restaurants and bars proposed by the Masterplan. In keeping with the fine grain of the buildings to be refurbished, the Quarter would have an intimate feel, of small streets, lanes, mews and yards. The main public space in the heart of the Quarter is a small square within a network of lanes and mews, appropriate for market, performance, meeting places and café culture activities.

The public realm would for the most part be hard-surfaced and uncluttered for flexibility of use.

In the north of the Clifftown Quarter a new public plaza could be created on the south side of Southend Central Station. The station is at present hidden away from the High street, with a very low quality forecourt dominated by cars.

Despite its modest size this proposed square would be intensely used by virtue of its central location adjacent to a main transport hub and very close to the University and College and retail core. In addition the junction between Clifftown Road and the High Street should be treated as one of the proposed series of nodes on the High street which respond to changes in the character of the adjacent Quarters and direct attention to key buildings and views. It is essential that the design detail of both areas is of a robust and very high quality.

Option Box 13

(7) What additional facilities should be introduced into this area to enhance its vitality and viability?

7.8 St John’s, Central Seafront and the Eastern Esplanade

The Character of the Area

Existing Form: The biggest challenge for this Plan is how to more strongly integrate the High Street and town centre with the central seafront and Esplanade. The main problem is the diverse nature of the component parts and the challenging topography which in part contributes to the fragmentation of the Quarter. The east side of the High Street forms the southern end of the town centre anchored by The Royals shopping centre. To the east of this and south of the railway line there is a more fragmented area of large pieces of real estate that contain modern office blocks, the Tylers Avenue car park, the former York Road market site (currently closed), and the Travel Centre. This component part is severed from the High Street by Chichester Avenue which at present functions as a main access route for cars and service vehicles accessing town centre premises and shoppers’ car parks, and for buses serving the Travel Centre.

Adjoining this fragmented area is an established residential area based on a traditional street pattern containing houses of different sizes and tenures.

This residential area is somewhat isolated from the town centre because of the poor connectivity across the barrier created by Chichester Avenue to the High Street. In the other direction Queensway forms yet another barrier severing links with and into the residential areas to the east. Chichester Avenue and Queensway are the principal means of access to The Royals multi storey car park and the Seaways car park.

There is a dramatic change in level from the southern end of the High Street to the Central Seafront and Eastern Esplanade which is the final component part of this Quarter. This is a crucial link which joins the High Street and possible new retail areas to the entire seafront, despite a challenging drop in level from Pier Hill. This area contains the entrance to the pier, theme park and part of the central seafront. The area is dominated by the Palace Hotel which has recently been extensively modernised and refurbished to a high standard. Below this on the Marine Parade itself there is a terrace facing the sea that consists mainly of large amusement arcades that are interspersed with smaller food and drink establishments. In stark contrast to the grandeur of the Palace Hotel building, this frontage displays a visually brash, cheerful and exuberant appearance, which is quite literally ‘electrifying’ after darkness has fallen. Some would argue that this particular frontage represents a significant defining feature of the Southend identity that should be celebrated rather than berated. Behind this frontage, and largely hidden from view, is St Johns Church and churchyard separated by a terrace of houses in Herbert Road from the bleak and sprawling Seaways car park that sits behind the amusement centres that front on to the Marine Parade and the Eastern Esplanade and the night clubs that front on to Lucy Road.

The final component of this Quarter is the theme park and the City Beach area. This part of the seafront is livelier than the Western Esplanade. It contains an intensive concentration of leisure activities with appeal for all ages which give this real potential as a Great British Resort. However, consideration should be given to expanding the tourism / leisure offer to increase current low visitor spend in this area. There is a major opportunity with the public realm proposals to consolidate major development proposals along the seafront and to secure proper integration with the town centre particularly via the area to the north currently operating as Seaway Car Park and Pier Hill.

The entire foreshore south of the seawall is designated for International and National sites for nature conservation and provides an attractive environment for both marine activities (sailing, bathing etc) and more passive enjoyment of the natural habitats. There are excellent opportunities to design high quality visitor facilities that interpret the natural habitat giving visitors a better understanding of the ecosystems that support the various birds and other wildlife. All future activity and development will need to ensure that they do not adversely affect the interests of the nature conservation designations on the foreshore.

Land Use: The High Street is dominated by retail and commercial premises. The seafront contains hotels, leisure, and food and drink establishments. Behind these there are extensive areas of car parking interspersed with commercial uses. This represents an area of poorly defined transition from the town centre to the residential area beyond.

Activity: A number of different functions collide and mix in this Quarter. The traditional High Street shopping area meets with the main seafront where visitors and day trippers gather to enjoy the many delights of the beach, shoreline, pier and seafront attractions. Funding has been obtained for the first stage of the City Beach public realm improvement scheme that will transform the seafront promenade and Eastern Esplanade into a single and cohesive high quality pedestrian friendly public space that will make this part of the seafront both “special” and “unique”. The Council is also developing proposals for the second phase of City Beach from the Kursaal to Esplanade House. There are potential major development sites on the sea front at Marine Plaza and Esplanade House. Both these sites have valid planning approvals Further investigations are required in order to inform the submission Plan which will set out proposals for land-use/mix and delivery.

There are high levels of activity all year round although the nature, intensity and the centres of gravity move with the seasons. Throughout the year Chichester Avenue and Queensway are the principal access routes for visitors using vehicles. The usage of the car parks ebbs and flows like the tides with the days of the weeks and the seasons.

Character Area Proposals

Sites

Leading Land Uses Retail and leisure including the entrance to the pier
Supporting Land Uses Residential, food and drink, visitor accommodation,
Locations Tylers Avenue could be at the heart of a new retail circuit, providing a high quality retail offer to complement the High Street. In addition to enhancing the offer, a high quality public realm and new provision for buses the objective would be to create a relaxing and pleasurable shopping experience whilst also encouraging sustainable movement patterns. Seaways has the potential to become a new retail, residential and leisure mixed use hub, playing a key role in creating critical mass in the St Johns Quarter, and redefining the Central Seafront and Pier Hill area and the connection between town centre and seafront. The Golden Mile in particular is a fantastic opportunity to further develop and enhance the leisure and tourism offer
Supplementary Guidance
 
 
The Southend Central Area Masterplan contains further advice and guidance. Renaissance Southend Limited has recently commissioned a study to prepare a brief and Masterplan for the St Johns and Heygate areas. This will be used to inform the submission version of this Plan.
Urban Form The Central Area Masterplan sets out the key principles to guide change and development, These include:
  1. Key buildings should have a retail anchor tenancy with upper terrace level of food and beverage. The main retail blocks should have two trading floors.
  2. There is potential to create ‘pavilion’ extensions to The Royals shopping centre in order to increase the trading floor areas and to restore active frontages.
  3. Remodelling of the urban form to create a north-south axis that makes a clear sightline from Queensway to the sea.
  4. The creation of a new link designed around the ‘Spanish Steps’ concept of stepped public urban space providing not only a direct connection to the seafront, but also providing gathering spaces and a setting for an urban spectacle.
  5. Improve access and circulation into and around the area.
The entire environment would be public space rather than highway. East-west connections between new and old should be strengthened by tree planting and by marking junctions as recognisable nodes to breakdown the psychological length of the existing streets. A new open space should be based around St Johns Church and including its churchyard to form the strategic hub of this Quarter, joining Tylers to the north to Seaways in the south-east. The Royals on the west and the new mixed use developments to the east would bring activity and natural surveillance to the space, as will its location between two main paths to the seafront. Proposal for Seaways should also include significant residential development and possible tall buildings to take advantage of the estuary views
 
The Eastern Esplanade is livelier than its western counterpart. The concentration of existing and future ‘City Beach’ leisure activities with appeal for all ages gives this real potential as a great British Resort. It should transform into a promenade for people, not a dual carriageway with an uninspired seaside pavement. Its landscape needs to provide strong and memorable identity as the seaside spot where we go to have fun! The City Beach public realm improvement scheme, currently under construction, will significantly change the character and appearance of this part of the seafront.

Option Box 14

14 Provision should be made to actively regenerate the ‘Golden Mile’ based on options for planned intervention into the existing built form by either:
 

(9) 14a - minimal intervention leading to loss of a few units to allow a punch through from seaway car park area to the esplanade

or

(6) 14b - greater intervention by removal of substantial number of units to allow a new ‘street’ with retail opportunities at right angles to the seafront and facilitate the broader ‘Spanish steps concept.

or

(4) 14c - removal of all units except for quality buildings i.e. nationally and locally listed buildings

7.9 The Western Esplanade

The Character of the Area

Existing Form: This Area has a less developed, low-key seaside character, less frenetic than the Central Seafront and Eastern Esplanade. There are stunning sea views, Victorian heritage and extensive greenery on the cliff slope. It is a place for a brisk walk along the prom, or a stroll in the gardens. The area has a somewhat tired and rundown appearance. However some extremely good qualities already exist, but they need to be revealed, enhanced and connected. The built area at the top of the cliffs comprises the Clifftown Conservation area.

The Western Esplanade is over dominated by tarmac and vehicles, with little seating, interest or recognition of seafront location. The gardens are severed from the promenade by the dual carriageway and parking. There is an unclear path system with many ad-hoc ‘desire lines’. An engineering study has been commissioned by the Council to assess the stability of the cliff and advise on remediation measures. There is one area of cliff slippage that requires repair.

Land Use: This is essentially a leisure area interspersed with extensive areas of seafront car parking.

Activity: The areas experiences great extremes of usage which are dictated by the seasons and weather and planned special events.

Character Area Proposals

Sites

Leading Land Uses Quiet leisure, seaside enjoyment, including sailing and cultural activities (potential Museum)
Supporting Land Uses Car parking, walking ,cycling
Locations The area comprises two distinctive parts, The Cliffs and The Western Esplanade
Supplementary Guidance
 
 
The Southend Central Area Masterplan contains further advice and guidance. In addition, planning briefs may also be prepared for to guide development and change.
Urban Form The Cliffs: The remedial work to stabilise the Cliffs will, when commissioned, incorporate additional measures to provide development opportunities for a new museum. The legacy of Victorian structures and formal garden remnants could be retained and reinstated to their former splendour. Use of Museum and other interventions to stabilise cliff slips
 
There is an opportunity to create a trail from the town centre connecting the conservation area, cultural and garden features. This work could also include a rationalisation and upgrade of the path system and seating. In addition there is scope to upgrade the Cliffs Pavilion outdoor space and improve its connection to the Cliffs. This includes the renovation of the historic Cliff lift which reopened in May 2010.
 
The Western Esplanade: The popular seafront parking should be retained, but the occasional bays could be removed to make strong pedestrian links from the seafront to key points in the cliffs. Consideration will be given to additional public realm improvements.

Option Box 15

(7) What additional facilities should be introduced into this area to enhance its vitality and viability?

7.10 Gateway Neighbourhoods

The Character of the areas

The Gateway Neighbourhoods are facing structural change in terms of land use, social and economic decline. They are typified by a mix of older, outmoded or redundant industrial and commercial uses which in some places conflict with existing housing areas and housing which is run down, or compromised by dereliction, poor urban fabric and lack of social and recreational amenities.

The main Neighbourhood Gateways have been identified as follows:

  • Sutton Road/Grainger Road (including the Greyhound Retail area);
  • North Road/Salisbury Avenue
  • Kursaal Estate and its environs

Option Box 16

(7) 16 - The Gateway Neighbourhoods should play a key role in meeting the objectives for the town centre by:

(4) 16a (i) - Enhancing gateway environments to the town complementing its role as a business and visitor destination

(3) 16a (ii) - Providing for new and improved residential neighbourhoods to meet identified housing needs.

(1) 16a (iii) - Providing for new and improved social care, recreational and community uses

(5) 16a (iv) - Reinforcing the business function of the town centre and providing local employment opportunities

and/or

(6) 16e - The Gateway Neighbourhoods should be developed as discreet entities with regeneration focussing on the needs of the existing communities with particular attention to protecting existing employment areas from loss.

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