Southend Central Area Action Plan & Proposals Map - Proposed Submission
4. Vision, Objectives and Spatial Strategy
4.1 Vision and Objectives
70. Our ambition for Southend Central Area, including the Central Seafront, is for it to be a prosperous and thriving regional centre that is vibrant, safe and hospitable and rich in commerce, learning and culture.
71. Our aim is to transform the image of Southend through sustainable economic growth, development and social provision, and for it to be independently recognised as a popular location for businesses, residents, students and visitors.
72. Our objectives are:
To improve and transform the economic vitality, viability and diversity of Southend Town Centre by encouraging the establishment of a wider range of homes, businesses and shops whilst providing new opportunities for culture, recreation and leisure.
To improve the buildings and public realm, including accessible green space, within the Central Area, to manage traffic and improve cycling and walking facilities so that Southend becomes a place that is more pleasant to experience and move around in.
To always have full regard to the unique assets of the Central Area including buildings and public realm of heritage and environmental quality and its spectacular coastal setting, rich social and built heritage, its excellent rail links to London, and its airport;
To always have regard to the significant biodiversity assets and environmental quality of the Central Area, help meet obligations on carbon emissions and adopt an approach to climate change through measures that mitigate against, or adapt to change, including managing flood risk and water efficiency;
To promote design excellence in all things and to ensure that this quality standard is also expressed within the actions of our delivery partners;
To expand the presence of the University of Essex and the South Essex College and establish Southend as an important regional centre for learning;
To encourage the establishment and expansion of all businesses in the Town Centre by identifying, promoting or by actively bringing forward suitable sites for development to meet modern user and investor requirements;
To significantly increase the number and diversity of people living within the Central Area and adjoining residential areas by bringing into use empty or underused floorspace and by building more homes and making efforts to ensure that living in the Town Centre becomes appealing to more families with children.
4.2 Spatial Strategy – Rationale
73. Based on a thorough understanding of opportunities and constraints and consultation feedback to date, the preferred overarching rationale for the Southend Central Area Plan is the creation of a ‘City by the Sea’ – a change in the function and transformation in the quality of the Town Centre and Seafront and renewal of the remaining parts of the Central Area.
4.3 City by the Sea - The Concept
74. Spatially, this concept embraces the vision of Southend as a prosperous regional centre defined by sustainable growth of its urban functions including living, commerce, learning and culture, and the identification of Southend as a location of choice for businesses, residents and visitors (see Map 3 – Southend Central AAP Boundary Quarters and Proposal Sites).
4.4 Development Strategy
75. The concept of urban Quarters challenges the current geography of the Central Area which is characterised by a strong sense of zoning. The Plan seeks to establish urban Quarters which, to a varying extent take on a new mixed sustainable character in line with principles set out in the hierarchy of national, regional and local planning policies. The themes of these new Quarters will be appropriate to their context, either seeking to strengthen the competitive advantage of current uses, or defining new roles contributing to the regeneration of the key sites and the Central Area as a whole. The introduction of new residential uses as part of a broader mix is a key element in achieving a vibrant, living Town Centre. Map 4: Vision – Key Diagram, summarises the Key Elements of the spatial development strategy for the Central Area.
76. The main Quarters and Key sites have been identified as follows:
- The High Street
- Queensway and London Road / Broadway
- Elmer Square
- Queensway and Southchurch Road
- Warrior Square
- Tylers Avenue
- Central Seafront (including Central Seafront and Western Esplanade)
77. In addition the Plan seeks to address the particular challenges facing older communities adjacent to the core Town Centre. These Gateway Neighbourhoods are facing structural change in terms of land use, economic decline, degraded urban fabric and dereliction. Whilst requiring regeneration in their own right for the existing residential and business community this should be achieved by enhancing their function, role and connectivity with the town centre regeneration.
78. The main Neighbourhood Gateways have been identified as follows:
- Victoria Gateway Neighbourhood
- Sutton Gateway Neighbourhood
4.5 Key Moves
79. The key moves are:
- Expansion of the existing narrow Town Centre core;
- Supporting greater differentiation in the character and function of the High Street, using Quarters east and west of the main retail route to define a sequence of different High Street experiences or Segments;
- Creating Urban Circuits to bring the Town Centre, particularly the retail environment to life;
- Exploiting opportunities to create better Integration across the town centre - between the urban Quarters, the seafront and to surrounding residential neighbourhoods;
- Delivery of a number of places, as quality destinations and Landmarks.
80. A simple principle of the plan is to increase the development capacity of the Central Area and Town Centre. Implicit within this is a more fine-grained network of movement, a greater diversity of activity over an extended day and a greater residential population at Southend’s heart. Intensification is a key component in the transformation from Town to City by the Sea.
81. The High Street is reorganised as a series of spaces with a distinct beginning and end. The differentiation, based on the character of the Quarters, along its length allows a more vibrant and distinct retail-led public experience that links strategically to the Quarters which form around the High Street spine.
82. Urban circuits or ‘loops’ are spatial devices that structure a more intensively utilised network of movement and activity. This option embraces the definition of different circuits which reflect the diversification of the Town Centre offer. Active frontages, repaired buildings, new streetscape, distinctive public spaces and pedestrian routes, and landmark buildings, orchestrate the experience of the urban circuit.
83. One of the main objectives of this plan is to more strongly connect the Town Centre to the Seafront. This option extends the Town Centre increasing routes for movement, activity and continuous paths of movement which reflects the way a delta meets the water’s edge.
84. Bridging the level difference between the Town Centre and the seafront is achieved through numerous interventions. A start has already been made at the end of the High Street, where the culmination of the historic thoroughfare is formalised in a new viewing veranda linked by lifts and stairs to a new pavilion at the plaza edge that provides access on to the Pier.
85. The Central Area Masterplan proposes a rationale for the location and nature of tall landmark structures which is based on three main premises:
- Gateway sites or thresholds mark entry into regeneration areas.
- Stand-alone buildings mark the water’s edge along the Eastern Esplanade.
- Victoria Avenue is reinforced as a grand entry boulevard.
86. These areas provide an opportunity to enhance gateway environments to the town complementing its role as a business and visitor centre, provide future development opportunities particularly to meet affordable and more specialised housing needs and new recreational and community uses. They should also accommodate ‘room to grow’ modern business facilities.
4.6 Sustainability Appraisals
87. This AAP is accompanied by a Sustainability Appraisal (SA), which assesses the likely social, economic and environmental effects of the Plan. This SA also meets the requirements of the European Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive (2001/42/EC).
88. The SA is a process that continues throughout the preparation of the AAP. So far, the appraisal has included several stages and reports. These demonstrate the feedback process between plan making and the sustainability appraisal, allowing sustainability considerations to be integrated into the AAP during preparation. Sustainability issues include the need for sustainable development, to protect the quality of life and ensure access for all. Sustainability appraisal is, therefore, an integral part of the planning process, which has informed the vision, objectives and policies in this AAP.
89. It should be noted that this AAP is one of a suite of Local Development Framework (LDF) documents that will comprise the planning policy framework for the Borough. SAs are being undertaken of the whole LDF, with SAs already undertaken of all component LDF documents to date, these have reached various stages of completion, they are:
- the Core Strategy Development Plan Document
- the Development Management Policies Development Plan Document
- the joint Southend Airport and Environs Area Action Plan
- Design and Townscape Guide Supplementary Planning Document
- the Planning Obligations Supplementary Plan Document
- Essex and Southend Waste Development Document
90. This SA process carries on from the SA carried out for the Core Strategy which, during its preparation tested 3 spatial options for growth – dispersal; peripheral urban/greenbelt; focused on key regeneration areas (including the Central Area) – and supported the adopted approach of regeneration focussed in key urban areas, which was the most sustainable way forward.
91. The SA reports from earlier stages of appraisal of the AAP which are available on the Council’s Local Development Framework (LDF) website and include:
- Scoping report: A combined scoping report was prepared for the Southend LDF to provide a picture of the background sustainability issues in the Borough. This is available on the Council’s website. The scoping was supplemented with additional work on area specific detail for the AAP of the central area and seafront by considering the Issues and Options set out in two early consultation documents namely
- Issues and Options Report - Town Centre AAP and
- Issues and Options Report - Seafront AAP
92. SA of Issues and Options of the Southend Central AAP: The SA at this stage provided an opportunity to further appraise the emerging options and preferred approach to development of the area. The consideration of alternatives and identifying the relative sustainability impacts of these approaches is important for the SA and an SEA requirement.
93. SA of the Submission version Southend Central AAP: This is the current stage of the SA and it is a full appraisal of the objective, policies and proposals of the AAP.
94. The SA has recognised that the Central Southend AAP has an important role to play in the sustainable development of this area and the wider Borough. The proposed AAP objectives provide the foundation for the development of policies and proposals for the central area.
95. The SA has identified that the objectives, policies and proposals of the AAP have the potential to deliver sustainability development in central Southend and beyond. However, it also finds that the objectives are stronger for some areas, such as built design enhancement, than for other areas such as the delivery of housing. Nevertheless, the SA concludes that the AAP contains much that is very compatible with achieving sustainable development. And there are many positive aspects of the plan in relation to delivering sustainable development that include:
- securing more sustainable transport access to the town centre, with emphasis on walking and cycling as well as public transport, with the result of fewer car trips and more equitable access for all
- better quality development and designing places and buildings that fit the context of the area and provide for a vibrant town centre
- supporting the economy of the town through providing new spaces for a diverse range of businesses, including offices, retail and strong emphasis on the growing tourism economy
- protecting the assets of the central area, including historic and cultural heritage of the built environment and protecting the high quality natural environment and seafront
- supporting new mixed communities in the central area through the provision of new homes and community services, including schools, health centres and open space
- Continuing to expand the university and college facilities in the town centre to support a thriving education sector, which will help create a vibrant town, skilled workforce and opportunities for business growth.
96. The SA of the submission AAP reveals some other sustainability issues and makes recommendations on how some aspects of the AAP could improve the sustainability performance of the plan. These include suggestions for making policy intentions clearer. These can be viewed in detail in the Sustainability Appraisal of this submission version of the AAP. A summary can also be found in the Non-technical Summary.
Habitats Regulation Assessment (HRA)
97. A HRA Screening Report has been conducted to consider the need for an Appropriate Assessment in compliance with the EU Habitats Directive, as part of Southend’s Local Development Framework. The HRA screening exercise considers whether the approach to a plan or project is likely to have a significant effect on the conservation objectives of a European site (also known as a Natura 2000 site).
98. The requirement to undertake HRA of development plans was confirmed by the amendments to the Habitats Regulations published for England and Wales in July 2007 and updated in 2010 by the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010.
99. The objective of the Habitats Directive is to protect biodiversity through the conservation of natural habitats and species of wild fauna and flora. The Directive lays down rules for the protection, management and exploitation of such habitats and species.
100. Screening for HRA will determine whether the plan is likely to have a significant adverse impact on the conservation objectives of European sites and therefore whether an Appropriate Assessment is required. In essence the screening is to initially identify those plans and policies that clearly or self-evidently would have no significant effect upon European sites so that they can be screen out of the assessment at an early stage.
101. The Screen Report concluded that the policies which comprise the SCAAP, in conjunction with the Southend on Sea Core Strategy and related documents, will not have a significant effect on European sites.
102. The Policies will ensure that European sites are protected and enhanced for the benefit of both the bird populations which frequent the marshes and mudflats, and the resident’s population of Southend and wider population who may use the seafront for recreation and tourism. The European Commission have highlighted the scope for ecotourism and sustainable tourism and that a balance can be achieved between conservation and social and economic needs and intentions of an area. It is considered that the approach in this document is in line with the aims and objectives of the European Commission and the objectives of the Natura 200 sites in close proximity to Southend on Sea.
103. This conclusion is supported after consultation with the Environment Agency and Natural England who consider that the wording of the policies will ensure the protection and integrity of the European Sites.