Development Management - Proposed Submission

Ended on the 29th April 2011
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Section 3: The Seafront

Policy DM6 – The Seafront

3.1 Southend-on-Sea has access to a major natural asset, the River Thames. The Southend-on-Sea Seafront Area stretches from Two Tree Island to Foulness. The extensive foreshore is a significant area for biodiversity being designated as international and European sites for nature conservation. The Seafront Area is not a defined area but relates to any area that has a material relationship with the Seafront. This relationship will be considered on a site-by-site basis and will take account a number of factors that may include proximity to Seafront, flood risk, visual associations, function and connectivity.

3.2 The Seafront is also an important component of Southend-on-Sea’s heritage that has defined the development and form of the town. Its character varies significantly along its length from the historic Leigh fishing port in the west to the old Garrison at Shoeburyness. Extensive parks and gardens range over the cliffs west of the pier. The central area is dominated by traditional, more vibrant seaside activities giving way to more passive recreation and broad expanses of open space moving east. Along the length of the Seafront there are several areas of housing which vary in style and density.

3.3 The Seafront acts as a major leisure asset. The offer ranges from passive recreation, to major tourism attractions such as the pier, amusement arcades and theme park, to water sport activities based on the foreshore and river itself. The regeneration of the Southend-on-Sea Seafront is a key objective of the Borough Council and forms part of wider initiatives for the Thames Gateway.

3.4 The Borough Council will ensure that residents, visitors, businesses and properties benefit from their close relationship with the River Thames. At the same time, it will safeguard, conserve and enhance the significant biodiversity, green space and other environmental resources of the area and ensure the sites for nature conservation on the foreshore are not adversely affected by any new development.

Seafront Character Zones

3.5 Along Southend-on-Sea’s stretch of seafront there are several distinctive character zones and each has a different built form and function. Each character zone has unique pressures and opportunities that need to be managed to maintain, protect and enhance their form and function. It is consequently not appropriate to apply a blanket policy approach to the whole Seafront area. Policy Table 1 sets out the development principles that will guide development in each character zone and ensure that their unique characteristics are not harmed.

3.6 The Central Seafront Area and Shoeburyness are not considered in the character zones in Table 1 as the detailed policy approach to development for these areas will be addressed in the Southend Central Area Action Plan and Shoeburyness Area Action Plan.

Built Environment

3.7 The Seafront plays a defining role in the character of Southend-on-Sea. The Southend Borough Wide Character Study 2011 identifies several distinct facets that define Southend-on-Sea’s relationship with the Seafront. These are:

  • Historic estuary town at Leigh-on-Sea;
  • Pleasure and leisure in the central part of Southend;
  • Hotels and larger buildings in the areas of the seafront around the central seafront;
  • Residential character beyond the central seafront area;
  • Cliffs located along western part of seafront resulting in a very distinctive landscape of steep escarpments.

3.8 The Seafront is also characterised by the frequency of heavily articulated buildings, including bold use of bays and balconies. Corner sites are particularly exploited, often providing opportunities for additional height and decorative features such as turrets. There is the strong orientation towards the sea.

3.9 Southend-on-Sea benefits greatly from a south facing aspect over the Thames Estuary at the point where it widens to meet the English Channel. This creates significant pressure for space in the premium positions along the seafront. Increasingly the desire for more flats and retirement properties in this location has led to taller and bulkier development.

3.10 The main concern for the character of the Seafront is the gradual degradation of that which makes it special. The increase in scale and loss of historic grain has a detrimental effect on the integrity and character of the Seafront. As a consequence there is a need to include design principles that control form, appearance and massing appropriate to the differing characters along the Seafront.

Public Realm

3.11 The coastline and associated setting already has a distinctive and historic character, sense of place and activities along the Seafront. The horizontal nature of the landscape is well suited for enjoyment, rest and recuperation. Improvements to the Seafront’s public realm is critical to the perception of Southend on Sea as a cultural and tourist destination and ‘the place to be’ within Thames Gateway.

3.12 Interspersed at regular distances, street furniture and public art will be encouraged within developments to demarcate both areas of different character and the actual distances between points. This will not only allow for easy navigation and a mark for a range of leisure activities but will also reinforce Southend-on-Sea’s Seafront as a high quality environment. The overall public realm strategy is driven by the following principles:

  • The importance of a high quality public realm;
  • The need for a broader range of activities and experiences for all sectors of the community;
  • The value of the existing parks, gardens and landscape areas;
  • The inclusion of a network of high quality activity spaces connected through a ‘Green Corridor’ along the Esplanade to include distinctive street furniture, lighting and illumination and Public Art; and
  • The creation of distinctive characters for each character zone both when experienced on land and from the sea.

(1) 3.13 Linkages will be developed that will join up the green spaces along the Seafront with the wider Southend area and the South Essex Green Grid. Any developments along Seafront will have to take account of the Seafront’s role as Green Corridor and where appropriate incorporate and contribute to this function and the linkages to the wider area.

Nature Conservation and Biodiversity

(1) 3.14 Government Policy requires a high level of protection to be given to the most valued landscapes, wildlife habitats and natural resources and those with national and international designations should receive the highest level of protection. The foreshore is Southend-on-Sea’s most valuable amenity, biodiversity and natural resource and is recognised as such by international, national and local designations. These designations are:

  • RAMSAR site;
  • Site of Special Scientific Interest;
  • Special Protection Area (for Birds);
  • Leigh National Nature Reserve (part); and
  • Southend Foreshore Local Nature Reserve.

3.15 In addition to the importance of the natural environment which is an attraction in its own right, there are many demands on the Seafront for leisure and tourism, as well as sea defences. Southend-on-Sea is a major tourism destination and has leisure and cultural infrastructure of regional significance, including the Pier. Much of these are a direct result of the attraction of the foreshore for its beach and water recreation activities and attractive environment in which to spend leisure time. The Southend Local Strategic Partnership recognises the importance of the Seafront in achieving its ambition of Southend-on-Sea being a cultural capital of the East of England. This priority is reflected in the Core Strategy DPD which at its heart sees the Central Seafront Area as a focus for regeneration.

3.16 Informal recreational use of the foreshore (and water when the tide is in) takes place along almost the entire length of the Seafront. It co-exists with nature conservation value, and has done for many years. It remains important to balance the regeneration, tourism and recreational opportunities with the biodiversity and natural resources along the Seafront.

Managing Flood Risk and Coastal Change

(1) 3.17 Government policy emphasises the need for flood risk to influence the location of development, and for development plans to follow a ‘sequential test’ in relation to the level of flood risk, directing development away from areas at risk of flooding. Within Southend, the Environment Agency’s current indicative floodplain maps identify a number of areas along the Seafront to be ‘at risk’, mainly from tidal flooding. In assessing the weight to be attached to this consideration, the Borough Council, in preparing its Core Strategy DPD had regard to:

  • The cultural, leisure and tourism opportunities on the seafront and regeneration and growth imperatives particularly within the built up central seafront area;
  • The early findings of the 2006 Thames Gateway South Essex Strategic Flood Risk Assessment (SFRA) which provided accurate maps of local flood risk. It indicated that flood defences within and adjacent to Southend were mainly in good overall condition. However, there remained small, but significant areas of the Borough where a residual risk remained in the event of a breach in the tidal defences; and
  • Southend has regularly and systematically improved existing flood defences to meet perceived levels of risk, which reduces the level of actual risk, indicated on current flood plain maps. This policy to maintain flood defences in line with the potential risk posed by climate change is set to continue and is supported by the Thames Estuary 2100 (TE2100) March 2010 and South Essex Catchment Flood Management Plan (CFMP) December 2008.

3.18 The adopted Core Strategy DPD identifies the seafront as a key growth and regeneration area and in addressing flood risk the Core Strategy goes on to require that where the Environment Agency’s Flood Zone Maps or other considerations, including up to date Strategic Flood Risk Assessment, indicate that a risk of flooding remain, all development proposals shall be accompanied by a detailed flood risk assessment appropriate to the scale and nature of the development and the risk. As such development will only be permitted where the assessment clearly demonstrates that it is appropriate in terms of type, siting and mitigation measures proposed, using sustainable flood risk management options which safeguard biodiversity importance of the foreshore and / or effective sustainable drainage measures.

3.19 In 2009/10 the Borough Council commissioned an update of the Thames Gateway South Essex Strategic Flood Risk Assessment (SFRA) 2006. This update focussed on the Southend on Sea local authority area and in addition it considered all sources of flooding within Southend and the impacts of climate change. It was carried out by Scott Wilson in collaboration with the Environment Agency’s Anglian and Thames Regions and in accordance with recommendations within the PPS25 Practice Guide.

3.20 PPS25 outlines a two staged approach to the completion of a SFRA and the Southend Study has produced the following 2 reports:

  • Level 1 SFRA completed September 2010 – provides an overview of the flood risk issues throughout Southend-on-Sea BC in order to facilitate a sequential approach during the production of spatial strategies in the future such as the review of the Core Strategy; and
  • Level 2 SFRA completed November 2010 – provides a more detailed assessment of flood risk to inform the Exception Test.

3.21 The Level 1 SFRA has confirmed that the two main sources of flooding within the Borough are tidal flooding from the Thames Estuary (resulting from a failure of a flood defence or overtopping of a defence) and fluvial flooding from the Prittle Brook, Eastwood Brook and Willingale watercourse that runs through Southchurch Park. In addition to tidal and fluvial sources, the study considers the risks associated with groundwater, surface water, sewer flooding and flooding from artificial sources. The Borough Council is also carrying Surface Water Management Plan to further assess the potential impacts and future management measures associated with surface water sources.

3.22 The most significant events in the Borough, in terms of potential for flooding, tend to be storm surges coupled with high spring tides which produce high tidal water levels in the Thames Estuary. These have the potential to impact on large areas of development along the tidal frontage.

3.23 Detailed hydrodynamic breach and overtopping modelling has been completed as part of the Level 2 SFRA to provide a greater level of detail regarding the variation of residual flood risk within Flood Zones across Southend. Results show that the Southend-on-Sea seafront and the southern extent of the Central Area are at residual risk of flooding in the event of a breach in the flood defences and via overtopping of the existing defences. Some of the flood defences along the Southend-on-Sea frontage are below the required 1 in 200 year standard for present day water levels.

3.24 Thames Estuary 2100 is an Environment Agency initiative, which aims to determine the appropriate level of flood protection needed for London and the Thames Estuary for the next 100 years. The Policy Management Approach within the TE2100 Plan for the seafront from Leigh-on-Sea to Shoeburyness is “to take further action to keep up with climate and land use change so that flood risk does not increase”. Where Southend Borough boundary extends to Hadleigh Marshes the Policy Management Approach is “to continue with existing or alternative actions to manage flood risk, maintaining flood defences at their current level, accepting that the likelihood and/or consequences of a flood will increase because of climate change”. It is clear that the predicted increases in sea level will continue to reduce the standard of protection as time goes by.

3.25 The overall intent of the Essex and South Suffolk Shoreline Management Plan for Southend-on-Sea is to sustain and support the viability of the Seafront related tourism and commercial activities and protects the communities that reside along it. This means a continuation of the current management approach that seeks to hold the current alignment where there are defences. Although the integrity of defences are under pressure from the risk of erosion, holding the line is necessary to sustain the Seafront which is essential to the viability of Southend-on-Sea as a seaside resort. This is currently managed through beach recharge. All development should take account of the Essex and South Suffolk Shoreline Management Plan and have regard to the need to manage future flood risk and coastal change so that it does not increase the need for new sea defences.

3.26 Due to the economic and social importance of the Seafront and its built-up nature along its length it would be inappropriate to impose restrictions on future development and it is considered that the main issue is one of ensuring the flood resilience of all new development and maintaining the structural integrity of the sea defences. The latter can be achieved in ways that significantly enhances leisure and tourist facilities to reflect the particular nature and role within the different proposed character zones. It is important to ensure that regeneration issues and the increased opportunities and impetus to improve the tourism and recreational offer and environment along the Seafront does not have an adverse impact on biodiversity and natural resources which are at the heart of the seafronts attractiveness.

3.27 In line with the Core Strategy DPD and Essex and South Suffolk Shoreline Management Plan, any development proposals within areas of risk will require detailed flood risk assessment and agreement with the Environment Agency. Development will also be required to demonstrate that it is appropriate in terms of type, siting and the mitigation measures proposed, including where necessary enhancement of flood defences and/or effective sustainable drainage measures.

3.28 Reference should also be made to the Southend-on-Sea BC SFRA Reports and Surface Water Management Plan for detailed surface water modelling results and further details on the mechanics of surface water flooding locally (this report is anticipated in Spring 2011). Site-specific Flood Risk Assessments (required for all development proposals on sites greater than 1ha) should refer to Council and water utility historic flood records to establish the level of potential surface water flood risk to any future development in these locations.

Water Recreation

3.29 Water recreation in Southend-on-Sea has increased in popularity over recent years and this popularity looks set to continue in coming years as Southend-on-Sea’s profile as a visitor destination increases. It is considered important that proposals for new and improved facilities, including slipways, are provided in appropriate locations where they do not conflict with other beach activities, public accessibility, the general enjoyment of the foreshore and the natural environment including the designated sites. Individual proposals are likely to require assessment under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 and will need to take account of any known wreck sites or other historic assets.

(10) Policy DM6 – The Seafront
  1. All development within the Seafront Area will incorporate measures which will:
  1. Limit any adverse impacts and where possible enhance the biodiversity interests of the local nature reserves and coastal and marine environment; and
  2. Protect the valuable natural amenity areas of International, European, national importance.
  1. All development proposals within the Seafront Area must take account of flood risk and coastal change. This will include, where appropriate, incorporating:
  1. Appropriate sea defence and engineering solutions; and/or
  2. Flood resistant and resilient design that provides safe refuge to occupants in the event of a flood and is easily restored after the event.
  3. Development within the Seafront Area must not prevent or restrict the future maintenance and improvement of sea and flood defences and the Borough Council’s ability to manage coastal change.
  1. Existing buildings along the Seafront that form a cohesive frontage, have a historic context or are known as key landmarks and/or contribute to a distinctive Southend-on-Sea sense of place will be retained and protected from any development that would adversely affect their character, appearance, setting and the importance of the Seafront.
  1. Development within or near the Seafront Area must not detrimentally impact upon the Thames Estuary’s openness or detrimentally impact upon views across and backdrops to the River Thames and Southend-on-Sea’s beaches.
  1. The provision of new and improved facilities for water recreation and other leisure and tourism facilities will generally be supported in appropriate locations along the Seafront. Proposals for water recreation facilities are required to demonstrate that:
  1. Such facilities will not significantly reduce the amount of beach available for public use or public accessibility to the foreshore; and
  2. Provide an adequate means of access to the foreshore.
  1. All development within the Seafront Area must:
  1. Accord with the development principles set in put in Policy Table 1; and
  2. Demonstrate how it connects to and where appropriate contributes to the Green Grid Strategy; and
  3. Either incorporate or contribute towards the provision public art within this area.

Policy Table 1: Seafront Character Zones

Seafront Character Zones Development Principles
1. Two Tree Island, Leigh Marshes and Belton Hills
  1. To maintain and improve recreational facilities within the character area and provide appropriate additional recreational facilities that supports the needs of local residents and enhances the attractiveness of the offer for visitors.
  2. To protect the special character of the nature reserve.
  3. The priority is to maintain the openness and function of the Green Belt in this area.
  4. To retain character and building height along Marine Parade.
2. Leigh Port and Old Town
  1. To maintain a thriving fisheries and working port. This is achieved by resisting the loss of existing marine industrial activities.
  2. To enhance the leisure and tourism in a manner that does not compromise the marine industrial activities and character of Leigh Old Town.
  3. To preserve and enhance the special character of Leigh Old Town Conservation Area.
  4. Measures that maintain and improve the balance between the working port and leisure and tourism activities will be supported.
3. The Cinder Path (Old Leigh to Chalkwell Station including Marine and Grand Parade and Undercliff Gardens)
  1. To continue to protect and enhance the open character and undeveloped, green space, frontage and estuary views from Grand Parade, Cliff Parade, The Gardens, Leigh Hill and The Ridgeway.
  2. Development will only be acceptable where it will improve the design quality of Undercliff Gardens, Grand Parade, Cliff Parade, The Gardens, Leigh Hill and The Ridgeway and where it retains the characteristics and form of the area. Development that materially changes the existing character, appearance and form of the area will be resisted.
  3. To improve the public realm linked to the Sustrans route.
  4. Improvements to the distinctive accessibility of the foot bridge and creation of a public space.
4. Chalkwell Esplanade to San Remo Parade
  1. To maintain and enhance the open aspect of the foreshore and beaches, promenade and landscaped areas.
  2. To replenish the beaches as the need arises and maintain the integrity of the sea defences.
  3. To improve the quality the beach huts at the western end of the zone. Additional beach huts elsewhere within this Zone will be resisted.
  4. To resist inappropriate development fronting the Seafront. The existing historic buildings, especially those in conservation areas or locally listed, will be retained. In all areas the form and fine grain of the seafront that defines this character zone will be preserved. The amalgamation of existing plots and large format bulky buildings will be resisted.
  5. The existing low rise building height of the buildings will also be maintained. Development will only be allowed where it is appropriate to context and where it enhances the character of the area.
  6. To develop a quality promenade that incorporates the Sustrans cycle route and encourages activity and increased enjoyment of the Seafront.
  7. To maintain and promote the commercial activities within this character zone.
  8. To replenish the beaches as the need arises and maintain the integrity of the sea defences.
  9. To resist inappropriate development fronting the Seafront and ensure that development does not erode this area’s existing architectural style and form. Development will only be allowed where it enhances the existing character of the area.
5. Victoria Road to Clieveden Road
  1. To encourage enhancements that promotes this location as a tourist and leisure destination and as a place to live.
  2. Shelters and cafes will be improved. Refurbishment and renewal works will not impact on the foreshore views and will not encroach onto the foreshore.
  3. To protect the existing architectural character and mix of uses.
  4. To resist inappropriate development fronting the Seafront. The form and fine grain of the seafront that defines this character zone will be preserved. The amalgamation of existing plots and large format bulky buildings will be resisted.
  5. The existing low rise building height of the buildings will also be maintained. Development will only be allowed where it is appropriate to context and where it enhances the character of the area.
6. Clieveden Road to Maplin Way
  1. Maintain existing established built character and activities based around open parks and beach recreation.
  2. Measures to improve the quality of the beach huts will be supported.
  3. Green grid will be enhanced through improvements to the parks and gardens.
  4. Existing leisure activities including the tennis, bowls and yacht clubs.
  5. No major development will be promoted or supported in this zone. Flatted developments along the Seafront will be resisted. Development that does take place must respect the open nature of the public and private open space and the grain and character of the residential area.
  6. Shelters and cafes will be improved. Refurbishment and renewal works will not impact on the foreshore views and will not encroach onto the foreshore.
Core Strategy Linkage:  
Objectives Policies
Strategic Objective 4 Policy KP1: Spatial Strategy
Strategic Objective 12 Policy KP2: Development Principles
Strategic Objective 14 Policy CP4: The Environment and Urban Renaissance
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