Southend-on-Sea Streetscape Manual

Ended on the 19 August 2013

The Southend-on-Sea Streetscape Manual - Introduction

1. When undertaking works that effect the streetscape, it is important to understand local character to ensure the end product complements it and addresses local aspirations for that area. Southend-on-Sea Borough Council has produced this Streetscape Manual to set out why specific standards are needed for the public realm, where key character areas are located within which these standards should be applied, how the streetscape should be designed and what products and specifications should be used. This Manual will be used to recreate the streets of Southend, to remove visual clutter, to relocate and merge functions, and to rethink traffic management options.

What is unique about Southend-on-Sea?

2. The Borough of Southend-on-Sea is the eastern-most extremity of the Thames Gateway, lying on the northern side of the Thames Estuary at the point where it meets the North Sea. It has a linear form lying along the coast and at roughly 13km by 4km is over three times as wide as it is deep. The Borough is bordered to the north by Rochford and by Castle Point to the west.

3. The fact that Southend sits on a shallow estuary effectively ruled out a viable existence as a shipping or fishing port (with of course the exception of Old Leigh which owes its existence to a working waterfront). However, it did lead to one of the most noted features of Southend – the longest pleasure pier in the world, designed to provide access for boats regardless of the tides. This relationship between the town and the estuary has inevitably had a significant impact on its form, both in the way that important town centre uses are effectively clustered at the edge of the urban area on the waterfront, but also in the urban design of the streets, spaces and buildings close to the water.

4. Across the Borough there are areas of differing character – the town centre and central seafront both being high profile areas and a focus for retail, commercial and leisure uses; the Borough’s 14 Conservation Areas, which by their nature tend to have a higher retention and protection of original detailing and provide a more cohesive approach to the overall composition of streets than is seen elsewhere. These areas require special attention to ensure their character and appearance are preserved and enhanced; its transport infrastructure which while providing access also creates local severance; and the interweaving nature of the trees and greenspaces. It is vital therefore that the Streetscape Manual supports and enhances this diversity of character, while ensuring a coordinated approach.

National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)

5. The NPPF constitutes guidance for local planning authroties and decision-takers both in drawing up plans and as a material consideration in determining applications. It has at its core a presumption in favour of sustainable development, to which Local Planning Authorities should have regard to in terms of policy development and development management decisions. Paragraph 35 of the NPPF requires plans to protect and exploit opportunities for the use of sustainable transport modes. For the detailed design and layout of developments this should include, where practical, priority being given to pedestrian and cycle movements, with access to high quality public transport facilities, the creation of safe and secure layouts which minimise conflicts between traffic and cyclists or pedestrians, avoiding street clutter and where appropriate establishing home zones, addressing the needs of people with disabilities by all modes of transport.

6. The Council, through the production of this Streetscape Manual, is providing the context within which these objectives can be met, setting the parameters within which Southend’s streets can be designed and managed to accommodate all road users in a safe, quality environment, whilst reducing the level of street clutter to make the streets more accessible and reducing maintainance costs.

Aspirations for the Borough – Local Planning Policy Context

7. The Borough’s streets and public spaces are the golden thread that runs through our communities and neighbourhoods, holding them together and helping to form a sense of place and identity. If a consistent and coordinated approach to their design is adopted then they have the potential to lift the appearance of an area, however an uncoordinated design approach can date quickly, creating maintenance issues and having cost implications.

8. The Streetscape Manual has been designed to respond to the variation in character across the Borough, whilst providing a consistent approach that will ensure that our streets and public spaces have a coordinated, quality palette of materials and street furniture. The Council’s Aim for the Borough was set out within its adopted Core Strategy (2007) and forms the basis of this Manual:

The Aim: “To secure a major refocus of function and the long term sustainability of Southend as a significant urban area which serves local people and the Thames Gateway.

To do this there is a need to release the potential of Southend’s land and buildings to achieve measureable improvements in the town’s economic prosperity, transportation networks, infrastructure and facilities, and the quality of life of all its citizens. This will include safeguarding and improving the standards of the town’s amenities and improving the quality of the natural and built environment.”

In addition to this Aim, there are 19 Strategic Objectives within the Core Strategy, which set out how this is to be achieved, the following of which are particularly pertinent in the context of the Streetscape Manual:

SO8: Secure a thriving, vibrant and attractive town centre and network of district and local centres.

SO14: Deliver high quality, well designed and attractive urban and natural environments which are safe, people friendly and distinctive, and which respect and enhance existing character and local amenity.

SO15: Secure effective and efficient sustainable development which prevents or minimises local contributions to, and the impact of, climate change, flood risk and the depletion of non-renewable resources, including the application of sustainable construction and operation in all development through the prudent use of natural resources, energy efficiency and low carbon emissions, and the maximum use of renewable and recycled resources.

SO18: Contribute to the creation of a ‘Green Grid’ of high quality, linked and publicly accessible open spaces and landscapes across the sub-region.

The quality of the Borough’s streets and public spaces are an important component in ensuring these aims and objectives are recognised. In recent years Southend has benefitted from a number of public realm improvement schemes, including:

  • City Beach: Phase 1. Southend is rightly known for its leisure area along the seafront, a key feature of the town for over a century, which has been the focus for recent streetscape improvements, known as ‘City Beach’;

  • Victoria Gateway: Phase 1. The first phase of this scheme completed in 2011 and provides a shared space linking the Civic Quarter of Victoria Avenue and Southend Victoria Station with the town centre and seafront.

9. The Core Strategy sets a clear design and development agenda through policies KP2 and CP4. The Development Management Development Plan Document (DM DPD) currently at proposed submission stage builds upon this policy foundation, setting out 5 specific design and townscape policies that:

  • Set the overall standards for design quality, including the public realm (Policy DM1);

  • Ensures the efficient use of resources, including sustainable materials, water conservation and urban greening (Policy DM2);

  • Ensures that design and townscape considerations are taken into account when making efficient and effective use of land (Policy DM3);

  • Sets out a strategy to ensure that tall and large buildings can be accommodated into the Borough in an acceptable manner that improves the quality of the built environment, including the public realm (Policy DM4);

  • Protects and enhances the Borough’s historic environment, including its townscape value (Policy DM5).

10. The Southend Central Area Action Plan (SCAAP), currently at proposed submission stage reflects the spatial vision and objectives of the Core Strategy DPD and includes more detailed policies and proposals to deliver regeneration and growth within Southend’s central area. Once adopted it will provide the framework in which to manage the built environment in the central area and ensure successful place-making.

11. All schemes for works to the public realm should have regard for the policy objectives for the Borough, and should have regard to the Council’s adopted Design and Townscape Guide (SPD1), Planning Obligations: A guide to S106 & Developer Contributions (SPD2); and this Streetscape Manual (SPD3) When undertaking works in Conservation Areas, regard should be had for the relevant Conservation Area Appraisal where available. All documents can be found on the Council’s website:

The Streetscape Manual

12. The Council considers that this Streetscape Manual is paramount to achieving a coordinated, high quality streetscape. It is presented in two parts, which should be read in conjunction:

PART A: Design Strategy – this section sets out the ‘Why?’ and the ‘Where?’, establishing the Council’s objectives for the design of its streets and public spaces; why this approach has been established and identifying where the Key Character Areas are in the Borough.

PART B: Design Detail – sets out the ‘What?’ and the ‘How?’, providing a technical guide for all street furniture across the Borough, what should be specified and how it should be installed. It is divided into two sections – Section I Surfacing and Signage, and Section 2 Street Furniture.

There has been a varied palette of furniture and materials introduced to the Borough’s streets and public spaces overtime, and in compiling this Manual the Council is seeking to consolidate these to provide a simplified approach.

Update and Review

13. This manual is intended to be a living document and will be reviewed annually to ascertain whether updates are necessary. Regular progress meetings will be held to review practices and furniture specifications to ensure that the document is in line with changes in legislation, best practice and that the materials and furniture styles specified are performing well in terms of wear and tear and value for money.

14. The Strategic Transport and Planning Policy Group is responsible for keeping the document up to date and will be the first point of contact for changes and departures from the detailed specifications. Departures from the specified furniture will need to be justified and agreed by the Council’s Head of Planning and Transport. Details and reasons for this must be provided on the ‘Materials and Street Furniture Update Form’ which can be found in Appendix Two.

Procurement Disclaimer

15. The manufacturer details for the materials and furniture specified are intended as a guide for the styles chosen but there is no requirement to purchase the items from these companies and the Council has a duty to ensure good value for money and that procurement rules are met. Items of the same design and equivalent quality from alternative manufacturers will normally be considered acceptable replacements.

16. Website addresses for the companies mentioned throughout the Manual can be found in Appendix Three. This list will also be updated annually as required.

For instructions on how to use the system and make comments, please see our help guide.
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