Potential plans to reinvigorate the City Centre by identifying ‘anchor’ projects for key areas is to be discussed by cabinet.
The City Centre Strategy and Investment Plan has been developed with consultants We Made That and PRD and the work was overseen by the Engineroom, a cross-sector partnership group.
More than 420 residents and stakeholders, including young people, have given their views about the future of the City Centre through face-to-face discussions, workshops, drop-ins, library exhibitions, and also through an online survey.
The strategy identifies the key areas of the City and anchor projects for each. Under the plans:
Victoria Gateway will bring together a range of different health and other public sector services with leisure, retail; cultural and learning uses. The Council already owns the Victoria Centre and will use additional Levelling Up Fund money, if the round 2 bid is successful, to create new leisure, performance and creative spaces.
Forum and Central will create a business hub, with creative businesses clustered to give business growth and employment opportunities for young people. The proposed plan is to find affordable spaces in high footfall locations that have potential to become workspace hubs.
Central High Street will become a greener, more family friendly space. Under the proposals, the High Street and Chichester Road could become healthy streets, with more trees planted, play equipment, and walking and cycling pathways.
Royals and the seafront would see work done with the new owners of The Royals to create an area with a mix of retail, leisure, residential and workspace. A second anchor project will look to link the seafront and the High Street with future development, and it is hoped the private companies will work with the Engineroom to achieve this.
Kursaal, although under private ownership, the vision is for this iconic venue to be reinvented as a home for learning, arts and culture for all ages. This area also includes the Marine Plaza development, which although delayed, has been granted planning and work is expected to start on site later this year.
The strategy has been written so it can change and develop as different projects and opportunities come to light in the coming years. It will be delivered in partnership with the private sector which will provide most of the investment required to reimagine the City Centre.
Cllr Ian Gilbert, cabinet member for economic development, regeneration and housing, said: “We needed a revolutionary approach to revitalise the High Street and give it a much-needed injection of investment, community and culture. We hear all the time that the High Street isn’t what it used to be, and it isn’t, because people’s shopping habits have fundamentally changed.
“But Southend is so much more than just shopping - we have a wide and wonderful cultural offering, and many entrepreneurs and businesses that want to stay local, want to invest in their local community, want engagement from local residents.
“We need to nurture that desire and I hope by having a plan that is flexible and allows for additional opportunities and growth, we have a strategy that can adapt as the City Centre grows and blossoms.
“With the input of local people early on in the process and by having the Engineroom lead those conversations and encourage private business to get on board, I am confident we will have a City Centre to be proud of.”
The report will be discussed at the cabinet meeting on Thursday 29 September 2022 (item 6).