Almost 5,000 new homes could be built in Southend town centre.

Planning officials have put together a blueprint for future development in the town, which earmarks sites for 4,594 extra homes.

Council chiefs want to take advantage of a culture change, with young professionals favouring city and town centre living.

Some critics have said improved infrastructure needs to be put in place to cope with the extra demand.

Labour’s David Norman, who is responsible for planning at Southend Council, said: “City centre living is very attractive for younger people, you only need to look at New York and London to see that.

“Car ownership for younger people is also a trend that is going down.

“There is an unmet demand for housing in the borough, but it is down to developers to come forward with ambitious plans, as we have seen projects down the years come to nothing.”

A total of 1,419 of the proposed homes have been already been approved, including 280 flats at Heath House and Carby House, in Victoria Avenue.

Other land such as Roots Hall, the Warrior Square car park, Sutton Road, Tylers Avenue, and the Queensway Estate have been listed in the Southend Central Area Action Plan as “opportunity sites.”

Many of the sites will be developed in phases before 2021, but others are likely to come to fruition in the years after if developers come forward.

The stretch of Victoria Avenue from East Street to the Southend Victoria train station is set aside for as many as 1,084 homes.

This does not include Heath and Carby.

The majority of the homes are expected to be flats in former office block conversions, which the council is powerless to stop under Government planning rules.

Labour’s Ian Gilbert, who represents Victoria ward, said: “We are unable to stop office blocks being converted into flats and that’s creating an intensification of homes in the area – a lot of the 4,800 homes will come from that.

“All we can do is get the infrastructure right and make sure we have the building blocks in place going forward to cope with the extra homes.”

With the majority of households owning cars, and junctions in Southend, particularly along London Road, the A127, and Victoria Avenue, regularly jamming, concerns have been raised about whether the town can handle the influx of new homes.

Paul Thompson, chairman of Southend Seafront Traders Association: “I saw recent statistics that said on average, households own 1.4 cars each.

“So even if only 2,000 homes are built in the town centre area, you are going to need around 2,300 extra car parking spaces. Where are they going to go?”

THE planning blueprint for the town centre neglects parking, a seafront trader has warned.

Paul Thompson, chairman of the Southend Seafront Traders Association, is concerned some of the sites included in the plan, such as Warrior Square, and Tylers Avenue, will see car parks built over.

Seafront businesses argue there needs to be more car parking spaces, especially with Marine Plaza and Seaway developments coming through.

Mr Thompson said: “The plan neglects cars in favour of other transport methods such as walking and cycling.

“If Southend wants to compete with the likes of Bluewater and Lakeside, and possibly Fossetts Farm, people need to be able to come to the seafront quickly and easily and the ability to park is vital for the future of Southend.

“The Southend Central Area Action Plan fails to resolve these issues and is unviable in my opinion.”

Labour’s David Norman, who is responsible for planning at the council, said there would be a seafront car park at the proposed cliffs museum which could cater for seafront visitors.

In addition, the authority wants to create a multi-storey car park in Victoria Avenue.

He said: “There needs to be a balance between the High Street, the seafront, and developments coming through.

Heath House and Carby House - to become homes

 

Football stadium to become homes?

ROOTS Hall has been earmarked for up to 290 homes in the biggest hint yet that Southend Council is losing faith in Sainsbury’s building a superstore there.

The dilapidated football stadium and its surrounding land has been listed as an “opportunity site” for housing.

The homes will be built if Sainsbury’s fails to follow through on plans to relocate its London Road store to the Southend United ground, in Victoria Avenue.

Senior councillors have admitted supermarket chains are now reluctant to build huge stores, but have urged the public not to read too much into Roots Hall being including in detailed housing planning documents.

Sainsbury's insists it is in “commercially sensitive discussions”

with the League One club, but the chain has never followed through with its plans despite the Blues getting Government approval to move to a new 21,000- seater venue at Fossetts Farm in 2008.

Labour’s Ian Gilbert, who represents Victoria ward, said: “While Sainsbury’s public statements say they are still committed to doing something on the site, we all know this has been going on for a very long time.

“It makes sense to prepare for all eventualities. With such a large site, I’d like a mixed use development on there, with commercial and employment buildings on the land, as well as homes."

Planning officers have also said they would like a mixed scheme at Roots Hall if Southend United moves to Fossetts Farm, which the homes expected to be flats.

When speaking publicly, club chairman Ron Martin appears to shed doubt on Sainsbury’s moving to Roots Hall, after getting real estate firm British Land on board last year to bankroll the first phase of the new stadium.

However, it is thought several shops in the row along Victoria Avenue are owned by the supermarket giant, while the former Prospects College site is still owned by the college.

Labour’s David Norman, who is responsible for planning, said: “There should not be too much read into the document, as it is a planning policy aspiration.

“But it looks like the big four supermarkets are drawing in their horns. A mixed use development which included some retail is the best bet for the area.”

Also included as an “opportunity site” is Sainsbury’s current home.

The authority believes it could get 150 homes on there, as well as offices, if the supermarket follows through with its plans to move.

Jamie Forsyth, co-editor of Blues fanzine All At Sea, remains cautious on whether the club will ever move, but would want any housing development in Roots Hall to touch on the football heritage of the site.

He said: It’s not really a surprise the site has been earmarked for homes.

“Sainsbury’s seem to have gone cold on the idea of a store there and the natural assumption would be that houses would be the alternative – it’s a prime site at the entrance to Southend, five minutes walk from Prittlewell station and there wouldn’t be a shortage of interested parties.”

Traders say plan neglects car parks

The planning blueprint for the town centre neglects parking, a seafront trader has warned.

Paul Thompson, chairman of the Southend Seafront Traders Association, is concerned some of the sites included in the plan, such as Warrior Square, and Tylers Avenue, will see car parks built over.

Seafront businesses argue there needs to be more car parking spaces, especially with Marine Plaza and Seaway developments coming through.

Mr Thompson said: “The plan neglects cars in favour of other transport methods such as walking and cycling.

“If Southend wants to compete with the likes of Bluewater and Lakeside, and possibly Fossetts Farm, people need to be able to come to the seafront quickly and easily and the ability to park is vital for the future of Southend.

“The Southend Central Area Action Plan fails to resolve these issues and is unviable in my opinion.”

Labour’s David Norman, who is responsible for planning at the council, said there would be a seafront car park at the proposed cliffs museum which could cater for seafront visitors.

In addition, the authority wants to create a multi-storey car park in Victoria Avenue.

He said: “There needs to be a balance between the High Street, the seafront, and developments coming through.