Southend-on-Sea Streetscape Manual
Part A: Design Strategy
17. The quality and functionality of streets and areas of public realm can make a vast difference to the success and public perception of a place and to the quality of life for its residents. Southend-on-Sea Borough Council is committed to ensuring that all projects, both large and small, create balanced streets with minimal visual clutter, using good quality and durable materials that are sustainably sourced, acknowledging the needs of all users. This Manual also provides the opportunity for existing schemes to be reviewed and the design principles contained here within applied.
18. Whilst there is a need to rationalise how the Council and others undertake new schemes and the upgrading of the existing network of streets and public realm, it is acknowledged that schemes need to strike a reasonable balance between reducing unnecessary street clutter and hazards, encouraging personal responsibility and community interaction, whilst maintaining the necessary movement of people both in and out of vehicles. Where appropriate, the mixing of modes should be encouraged, giving priority to the most vulnerable road users, promoting accessibility to all areas of the Borough.
19. The Southend-on-Sea Streetscape Manual therefore aims to raise the quality and consistency of schemes which effect the Borough’s streets and public realm, creating vibrant and useable spaces. It is important to get the basics right and the following principles should be applied to all schemes in order to Recreate the Borough’s streets:
Remove visual clutter - think about whether the item of street furniture / signage is required or reinforces local character, or whether it is superfluous or redundant and able to be removed to reduce unnecessary clutter;
Relocate and merge functions - maximise the effectiveness of necessary street furniture. For example, it may be possible to accommodate signage on lamp columns, or cycle stands used on build-outs in place of bollards;
Rethink traffic management options - can traffic be managed differently to readdress the balance of the street and how people use it? Rethinking traffic management options sees a higher capital investment but can lead to the creation of Better Streets through the introduction of shared space.
Why do we need a Streetscape Manual?
20. It is the Council’s view that the streetscape plays a vital role in the way residents and visitors experience the Borough. The approach set out within this Manual will ensure that our streets and areas of public realm are well-maintained, attractive, inclusive, fit for purpose, and that this remains a priority. The Manual sets a design standard for street works across the Borough, and will ensure a consistency of style and quality of implementation. All developments effecting the streetscape in Southend, including existing schemes when reviewed, will be expected to follow the less is more principle, avoiding unnecessary clutter and merging uses where appropriate.
21. All works that effect the town’s streetscape will be expected to demonstrate compliance with the Streetscape Manual. The Council’s 5 stage ‘Gateway’ design process, which can be found in Appendix One, offers an adaptable template for achieving this. Departures from the Manual should be addressed to the Strategic Transport and Planning Policy team in the first instance using the Materials and Street Furniture Update Form in Appendix Two, with sign-off to be agreed by the Head of Planning and Transport.
Value for Money
22. Important improvements to our streets and public realm are possible to achieve at a relatively low cost or level of investment. By implementing the standards set out within this Manual it will be possible to deliver good streets and public spaces through undertaking more efficient purchasing, making the streets easier to maintain and ensuring good value through durable design. It will be essential that works are properly coordinated, in line with the standards set out by the Manual, in agreement with the Council.
Who is the manual for?
23. This Manual will be the benchmark for the Council’s own street works and will act as a guide for Council Officers and Members, requiring that Officers from a range of departments (including traffic and highways engineering, strategic and transport planning, design and conservation, development control, parks and streetscene) work together to ensure a coordinated approach. The Manual will also be a valuable resource for Residents, Local Businesses and the Private Sector in facilitating a common understanding of what standards are expected of Southend’s streets and public realm.
Defining the ‘Public Realm’
24. For the purpose of this Document the public realm is defined as all areas which are publically accessible to all including streets, paths, the seafront promenade, pocket parks, business parks and pedestrianised areas such as the High Street, public squares and plazas. These areas can be publically or privately owned. The Council parks are not included in the scope of this document and will be maintained on a separate basis.
Southend’s Streetscape Objectives
25. There are 5 key objectives of the Streetscape Manual that will be central to decision making, these are:
Objective 1: Get The Basics Right – Applying the ‘Remove, Relocate, Rethink’ Principles to all New and Existing Schemes to Provide a Clutter-Free Environment.
26. The Council recognises that some areas of the Borough suffer from excessive street clutter – it reduces space for pedestrians and cyclists and other users, creates obstructions and is generally unattractive. The Southend-on-Sea Streetscape Manual is based on the approach that, for streetscape, unless its provision is mandatory by law, less is more, and provides a neutral palette of materials to achieve consistency and clarity for designers. Development proposals that affect the Borough’s streets or public realm will be expected to demonstrate an understanding of the area’s character, identifying opportunities for removing clutter, or merging uses. This Manual can be applied to both existing schemes, to improve their quality, and to new schemes to ensure a consistent approach is adopted.
27. For existing schemes an audit of street furniture and materials should be the starting point so that opportunities to remove, relocate and rethink provision can be appraised up front, before any further works are undertaken.
Objective 2: Creating ‘Better Streets’ by making the Borough’s Streets and Public Realm Safe and Accessible for all, Recognising the Needs of Vulnerable Road Users, Encouraging Walking, Cycling and other Sustainable Modes of Transport.
28. Through the implementation of this Manual the Council seeks to ensure that its streets and public places are designed to address the needs of all users to ensure ease of movement and of course, safety. To ensure that our streets are safe and inclusive places, the Manual sets the standards for creative and innovative street design that requires those planning the scheme to understand how people with different requirements will use and interpret the space, in turn enabling users to use these spaces safely themselves.
29. A key consideration for all schemes must be accessibility for all users and their differing requirements, including those with mobility or sensory impairments, older people and children. All schemes will be expected to create safe, attractive and legible streets and crossing points without generating unnecessary obstructions to movement.
30. Providing for the mobility requirements of an ageing population is a complex issue. The design of streets and public spaces must take into account the needs of a wide range of users and often involves a series of compromises. The EU funded SaMERU road safety project is seeking to identify the factors and make recommendation on areas that impact on elderly road users including reduced abilities, sight, slower reaction times and the benefits to health in staying active later in life. It will be reporting in Spring 2013 and the findings will be incorporated into this Manual in due course. Particular emphasis needs to be given to consultation with older road user stakeholder groups, consideration of street layouts, crossings and facilities that provide for particular mobility needs and guidance, training and advice when new facilities are introduced.
31. For information, the age group 65+ will find the following of great benefit in keeping mobile and active:
Maintain pavements and road surfaces, especially at crossing points, to a high standard;
Improving the knowledge of how tactile cones and puffin crossings work (consider the policy of preference for puffins over pelicans and zebra crossings) – if crossings and new junctions go in then make sure that information is clear
Help older drivers to find alternative methods of travel when they feel they are no longer able to drive bearing in mind that this might include non-transport solutions; and
Prioritise the safety needs and target the 75+ age group.
32. The quality of the environment and how its design can promote walking and cycling will be a central element of all schemes. This includes consideration of desire lines, minimising barriers to movement, allowing space on the carriageway for cyclists and motorists and providing good levels of illumination for both vehicles and pedestrians. In conjunction with this, planning policies will also seek to ensure active frontages in commercial areas and that all public spaces and streets have high levels of passive surveillance from surrounding buildings, particularly in the Central Area.
Objective 3: Creating Sustainable, Easy to Manage and Cost Effective Streets by Employing a Simplified Palette of Materials
33. The materials and street furniture designs are chosen for a project will depend on the location and context of the scheme. What is acceptable for the town centre or a Conservation Area is likely to be different to that of a typical residential street. Suitable materials for each area are specified in Part B: Design Detail. Deviations from this are unlikely to be acceptable and any proposals for alternative materials must be fully justified and agreed in writing with the Head of Planning and Transport. The Council will seek to ensure that materials are locally and sustainably sourced where possible and will expect of high quality of workmanship.
34. The Council is committed to adopting environmentally sound practices for its streetscape works and by limiting the range of materials and street furniture styles there is greater opportunity to reduce waste by reusing redundant materials and recycled products. A restricted palette of materials and furniture will also enable the Council to keep replacement items in stock and should speed up repairs of damaged items. Adopting a best practice approach to installation and detailing will ensure that new items are installed to a consistently high standard. Opportunities for energy efficiency in schemes, such as solar signs and intelligent street lighting (which switches lanterns on and off according to natural light levels) will also be pursued.
35. The longevity of the material or piece of furniture and its replacement cost will be carefully looked at in each case. The Council will encourage the use of high quality robust materials and furniture that can be easily cleaned and maintained and this will be a key consideration in the design of new schemes. Footways and cycleways will be maintained to provide even and well drained surfaces and steps will be taken to minimise the opportunities for flyposting, graffiti and antisocial behaviour, and remove it quickly where it does occur.
Objective 4: To Improve the Street Environment for Residents, Help to Attract Visitors to the Town, and Promote the Regeneration of the Central Area.
36. Over time the use of a consistent, quality approach to street works will lead to a steady improvement of the Borough’s streets, promoting regeneration and local distinctiveness, helping to encourage higher levels of visitor numbers particularly to the town centre and central seafront area. The attractiveness and success of the streetscape environment will also be dependent on the quality and use of the buildings and activities that take place in the streets and public spaces. Consequently the Manual should be read in conjunction with the Council’s Local Development Framework (LDF), which contains planning policies and design guidance for development. For the Central Area, the Southend Central Area Action Plan (SCAAP) currently at proposed submission stage sets out a detailed framework to guide development in this area, including the upgrade of existing, and creation of new, public spaces, and enhancements to the public realm. It sets out the opportunities for providing public art trails within the Central Area to add richness and local distinctiveness to the public realm, and opportunities for public art installations should be included where appropriate, particularly on the larger streetscape schemes, working in conjunction with local artists. This should be read in conjunction with the Council’s Design and Townscape Guide SPD and this Streetscape Manual.
Objective 5: Enhance the Borough’s Green Infrastructure
Where are the Borough’s General and Key Character Areas?
38. The Streetscape Manual sets out a palette of materials and street furniture appropriate to general areas with lower footfall across the Borough as a whole. It is recognised however that we cannot treat the Borough as a single entity; some areas will require a different approach than others so the following Key Character Areas (see Map 1) have been identified and the choice of material/furniture varied to reflect and strengthen local distinctiveness, full details of which can be found with Part B: Design Detail. These categories are:
Town Centre streets: a coordinated and quality palette of materials to create a strong, definitive character for this important area of the Borough will be employed. In areas of primary shopping frontage, a higher specification of materials will continued to be used and a higher level of footfall addressed.
District Centres: the Borough’s District Centres of the Broadway Leigh-on-Sea and Hamlet Court Road, Westcliff have their own unique character and each will receive an appropriate treatment to identify them as areas of local importance and to respond to the higher footfall in these locations.
Seafront: The seafront is unique and as such deserves an individual approach that respects its special character, and often higher level of footfall.
Conservation Areas: Streetscape work in the Borough’s 14 Conservation Areas must consider the context of the historic buildings and heritage assets and be designed accordingly. In these areas in particular an audit of streets will enable a comprehensive understanding of existing character and the preservation of remaining historic street furniture (including lamp columns) and floorscapes (including paving, granite kerbs and drainage channels) should be the starting point for all schemes in Conservation Areas in terms of preservation and local distinctiveness should be promoted.
39. Of course there are some site specific schemes that have been given their own special character including City Beach and Victoria Gateway. In instances where a diversion from the standards set out by the Streetscape Manual are considered to be justified, the Council’s Strategic Transport and Planning Policy team must be consulted, with final agreement being sought from the Head of Planning and Transport. Please complete and submit a Materials and Street Furniture update form (Appendix Two).
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