Southend Central Area Action Plan
6. City by the Sea - The Concept
6.1 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.
6.2 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 new 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.
6.3 The main Quarters and Key sites have been identified as follows:
- The Victorias
- London Road
- The High Street
- Queensway and Southchurch
- Elmer square – University Campus
- Warrior Square
- Clifftown Quarter
- St John’s, Central Seafront and the Eastern Esplanade
- The Western Esplanade (part of)
- Gateway Neighbourhoods
6.4 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.
6.5 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
Urban Design and Built Form
6.6 In terms of urban design and built form, the ‘City by the Sea’ concept seeks to transform the Central Area into a more cohesive destination. This is achieved by establishing better physical and functional links between the different Quarters. In physical terms, the Plan has the clear aim of removing impediments and barriers to cross-town movement. In addition to enhancing permeability and the equality of the public realm, the Plan also seeks to encourage better functional links and overlap between Quarters and different market sectors. The creation of urban circuits, particularly those associated with the retail environment is a clear opportunity to enhance the prosperity of the Central Area.
Access and Movement
6.7 Notwithstanding the current economic situation and Government spending review, significant transportation interventions are necessary to deliver the renewal and physical changes to the Central Area to meet the employment, housing, tourism and leisure needs of residents and visitors. The Borough Council through its delivery plans for the Local Transport Plan and Regional Transport Strategy has developed a Town Centre and Seafront Integrated Transport Scheme to support the principles and objectives of the Core Strategy DPD and Central Area Masterplan (CAM). The preparation of the Borough Council’s LTP3 will consider further how best to deliver improved access and movement in the Central Area in the short to medium term having regard to funding and deliverability issues.
6.8 The Integrated Transport Scheme takes advantage of the CAM proposals for the Victorias and City Beach (currently being implemented) which are seen as key to regeneration and integration of the northern end of the Town Centre with the Railway Station and public transport nodes, and the central area and the seafront areas respectively.
6.9 It also takes advantage of the reconfiguration of the town centre in order to develop new opportunity sites in the Quarters (including existing surface car parks), access to new car parks and providing for new and enhanced access for walking, cycling and public transport to and within the Central Area.
6.10 Key elements of the Scheme are:
- Junction modifications on Victoria Avenue at Priory Crescent/Fairfax Drive and West Street/East Street to support South Essex Rapid Transport System (SERT) and cycling strategy, including bus priority/pedestrian and walking schemes;
- Replace/relocate existing car parks to sites adjacent to the main access round the town centre (e.g. Queensway and London Road) and improve the public realm and walking routes in the ‘fractured’ areas between these main routes and the High Street;
- Create a ‘second shopping street’ along Chichester Road with priority for pedestrians, cyclists and public transport;
- Integrate and enhance railway stations in the Central Area, to promote an ‘Urban Metro’ approach on the 2 main commuter railway lines in the town and the 9 surface stations serving the borough;
- Queensway improved pedestrian proposals to reduce severance and increase permeability between residential areas to the east;
- Introduce a Western Esplanade traffic management parking, walking and cycling scheme – including SUSTRANS route improvements;
- Develop vehicle parking standards for development that adequately meets the needs of residents in the central area and does not adversely impact on residential streets
- Ensure all schemes, particularly for walking and cycling reinforce the Green Grid Strategy for the town
6.11 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 and to surrounding residential neighbourhoods;
- Integration of a number of distinct town centre Quarters with better links to surrounding residential neighbourhoods;
- Delivery of a number of places, as quality destinations, green spaces and Landmarks.
6.10 A simple principle of the plan is to increase the development capacity of the 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.
6.11 The High Street is reorganized 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.
6.12 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 landmark buildings, orchestrate the experience of the urban circuit.
6.13 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.
6.14 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.
6.15 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.
6.16 These areas provide an opportunity to enhance and ‘green’ 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.