The developer behind one of Southend’s most controversial developments has praised the council’s planning team for saying their plans should be given the greenlight at a meeting next week.
Turnstone Estates’ plans to transform the Seaway Car Park off Lucy Road have been years in the making but could take a major step towards becoming a reality if councillors vote to grant planning permission at a meeting on Wednesday.
What is it?
The £50million development will include a hotel, an IMAX cinema, a climbing wall and restaurants.
Will it create jobs?
It is also expected to create up to 500 new jobs, as well as generate £15million each year for the local economy.
What’s the latest?
The council’s planning team has now published a report which states planning permission should be granted “with the planning benefits of the proposals far outweighing the limited harm”.
It is a conclusion that has been welcomed by the director of Turnstone Estates, Tim Deacon.
He said: “We are determined to deliver Seaway Leisure and are delighted that our proposal has been recommended for approval by Southend Council planning officers.
“The proposal is a fantastic once in a lifetime opportunity to bring hundreds of jobs to Southend and give residents the state-of-the-art facilities and year-round attraction that they deserve.
“Not only will residents benefit from new jobs and fantastic leisure facilities, existing businesses will also receive a boost from the extra footfall Seaway Leisure will provide.
“It’s win-win and why the voice of Southend town centre businesses, the Southend BID, is also calling on councillors to approve the scheme.
“Now is the time to grab with both hands the opportunity that Seaway Leisure’s bold vision presents to secure a bright and vibrant future for Southend.”
Who else is supporting it?
Southend BID has also given its support to the plans after carrying out a survey which showed 63 per cent of local businesses were in favour of it going ahead.
And who’s against it?
However, seafront traders who work near to the site have been strong critics of the proposals as well as leading Southend businessman and owner of Adventure Island Philip Miller MBE.
Mr Miller has warned that it not only threatens to put a number of town centre and seafront traders out of business but also his own company, the Stockvale Group, which operates Adventure Island, Sea Life Adventure and the restaurant Clarence Yard.
Following the publication of the council report, Mr Miller said: “We have never complained about the content of the scheme it’s the council’s call what they want to have there, what annoys me is the unsubstantiated boasts the council and Turnstone make its ridiculous to say it will create 500 jobs they haven’t done an impact study on surrounding businesses so how do they know?
“This development could wipe out more jobs than it creates – make a list, the Odeon, Kursaal closing, businesses in the Queens and London Road sector will suffer terribly without the Odeon the Seafront will lose out through lack of parking.
“The big attraction of course is Adventure Island which brings much trade from far away to the town we are already in decline and have been for years as the council reduced car parking by three thousand spaces so has our trade dropped.
“Local hotels will suffer as my investment wanes.
“Cinemas are not tourist attractions people go to their nearest or cheapest cinema then go home. Why the property developer has chosen this site as against Warrior Square is pretty obvious, they want to milk the seafront trade simple as that.”
What’s the argument against it?
Seafront traders have been warning against the plans to redevelop the car park primarily due to fears that there will not be enough parking spaces to accommodate visitors to the leisure centre as well as other seafront attractions such as Adventure Island.
At present the car park provide 661 parking spaces to visitors but if the development goes ahead, that number will be slashed to 555 but will be expected to cater for seafront visitors and people heading to the new leisure centre.
Southend businessman and owner of Adventure Island, Philip Miller MBE, warned last week that the consequences of taking away the spaces will mean the “extinction” of his family business.
He claimed that “if you take away our car parking you cut off our oxygen”.
But the council has given little weight to the claim, with planning officers dismissing the concerns entirely in a new report which recommends the leisure centre be granted planning permission.
They note: “The car parking impact assessment undertaken by the applicants demonstrates that the proposed 555 car parking spaces are sufficient to ensure that for the majority of the year, the Seaway car park will accommodate existing and development generated car parking demand.”
It adds: “For the majority of the year the Seaway car park can accommodate the existing and development-generated car parking demand on-site with no overspill parking to surrounding car park.”
The development is expected to create up to 500 new jobs in the area, this is split between 78 full-tie positions during the construction of the leisure complex along with 16 ‘indirect’ jobs. The construction phase is also anticipated to generate around £4million for the local economy.
When the centre goes into operation, it will create between 270 to 323 fulltime jobs, adding £12.6million to the economy.
Impact on local businesses
Council officers have assessed the impact Seaway could have on local business such as the existing Odeon Cinema on London Road.
They concluded that the existing cinema “offers a different experience to that to be provided at the site” and currently many Southend residents prefer to use the cinema in Basildon.
They add: “Similarly, there is no provision for trampolining, ten pin bowling or climbing walls within Southend, all of which can be accommodated within the leisure building.”
Heritage and ecology
The council says that they have not received any objection from Historic England or the Environment Agency over the impact that the development will have on the surrounding area.
It gives particular consideration to Historic England which told the council the development of this site has the potential to “enhance” the area.
The report also dismisses concerns about the potential for bats to be found at the nearby Herbert Road, noting that “the building is surrounded by extensive hard standing, some distance from habitats that could be considered to offer value to foraging bats”.
The council says is considers that the proposed development will not lead to significant impacts on the surrounding environment, whether in terms of pollution, air quality, ecology or biodiversity, flood or heritage.
It goes on to say that the key environmental impacts are considered to arise from its scale, size, height and design, as well as the impact on the amenities of neighbouring occupiers. On these issues, planning officers say the size will only impact the site of the development, while the impact on transport and parking would not have a significant impact on the environment.
The planning team believes the plans will lead to the creation of a “new landmark building” in Southend and it will be a “contemporary feature that will add positivity to the identity of Southend”.
The council’s design and conservation officer concluded that “the scale of the development proposal is significant, but the building sits comfortably in this context close to the town centre”.
While the officers acknowledge there will be some harm on “a number of key views” but note this impact will be limited.
Privacy for nearby properties
Some concern has been raised about the loss of privacy due to the development overlooking properties along Chancellor Road, Hartington Road and Herbert Grove.
However, the council says this will be addressed by the 80-room hotel adopting obscured glazing which will blur views of nearby properties. Furthermore, trees will be planted to block view and the new multi-storey car park will be designed to prevent any overlook.
A key concern from nearby residents has been the level of noise and disturbance generated by the leisure centre.
But the council’s environmental officers have said that the site will use acoustic screening to reduce noise levels, along with restricted hours of use for any outdoor seating areas.
If the planning permission is granted the council will also request Turnstone to provide a noise management strategy before building work begins and this will outline in detail how extra noise will be addressed.
Source: Southend Standard