In response to the Renaissance Southend Regeneration Framework Consultation (May 2007)
The rejection of old, polluting, dirty, unsustainable practices.
The good and the bad
While there is much that is good in the Renaissance Southend consultation document the core vision for the town portrayed is one of expansion of dirty, polluting industries which ensure a bleak future for the town and its inhabitants. This document will identify the bad, explaining why these are harmful to our people and point the way to a brighter, cleaner, responsible vision for the future direction of our town.
A council at war with its citizens
After a protracted period of conflict between the town’s councillors and its people, recent developments suggest the time is right to re-engage with the council, seeking common ground in the fight against the greatest threat the town will face – climate change.
A reminder of the main areas of conflict: –
- Widening of Priory Crescent with the loss of vital urban green space and a unique archaeological find.
- Expansion of Southend Airport with the fear of increased night flights, noise, increased toxic emissions and greenhouse gases.
- Council opposition to the Isle of Grain wind farm.
- Moving town centre facilities out of town (Southend United FC/ Southend Warrior Square swimming pool).
Why reject the Renaissance Southend core vision for regeneration?
As a town with a substantial area of land at or below sea level the borough of Southend stands to lose significant space in the coming decades as sea levels rise. Shoeburyness and parts of Southchurch are particularly at risk, with the potential loss of 350 homes by 2080. However, that figure will be far greater if the town makes the mistake of approving further construction of new homes to the east of Southend. A crucial additional concern is the economic threat caused by the potential loss of the C2C rail line to sea level rise.
While the scientific community works to establish the degree to which sea levels will rise, work by the UK Climate Impacts Programme, the Tyndall Centre for Climate Research, the IPCC, NASA and others suggest that by 2080 we must expect a rise of at least 12 inches. But, we must prepare for much worse – NASA scientists have warned that sea levels could rise by 6 feet by 2100. The greatest area of uncertainty surrounds the rate at which the Greenland ice sheet will retreat.
The Renaissance Southend vision for aviation is of particular concern. It is an irresponsible, outdated vision. Great emphasis is placed upon the potential job creation opportunities that expansion of Southend Airport might bring: –
- Page 34 – 320 jobs created at the airport between 2007 & 2011, 580 between 2011 & 2016 and 700 between 2016 & 2021.
- Page 35 – To seek the extension of the airport runway.
The Renaissance Southend vision for transport is also confused. While we welcome the suggestion of a new rapid transit coach/bus system, there is little to suggest traffic can be reduced. The plan notes that the Council is committed to two traffic increasing initiatives (moving Southend Football Club out of town and demolition of Warrior Square swimming pool with a new pool being constructed on the edge of town. In addition to increasing car use and pollution there is concern that (on page 41) there is a proposal to increase car parking facilities at the town’s parks.
While the plan makes fleeting mention of the need to work with others to promote renewable sources of energy, this is fleeting and aspirational. It is telling to note how specific the Renaissance Southend plan is with regard to job creation at the airport but not one word is said regarding job creation in the renewable sector.
The Renaissance Southend vision is an irresponsible drive for the expansion of industry (aviation) and activities which increase greenhouse gas emissions and speed the rate of climate change.
Renaissance Southend – in breach of the new Planning Policy Statement (PPS 1)
New government guidance contained in the draft supplement to Planning Policy Statement 1 (PPS 1) clearly emphasises that priority should be given to tackling climate change when assessing new development. While this does not necessarily preclude the expansion of aviation at Southend Airport, it would certainly appear to prohibit the proposed new football ground and edge of town swimming pool. Both proposals will lead to increased car use, increased emissions and will disadvantage those without access to a car (increasing social exclusion). Far from destroying the swimming pool site, the pool should be radically refurbished and promoted as the central leisure and social hub around new cafes and other retail facilities.
Furthermore, the Renaissance Southend plan spectacularly fails to address the new obligations which the new Planning Policy Statement (PPS 1) will bring to promote and encourage, rather than restrict, the development of renewable energy resources.
New homes – an opportunity and a threat.
Of significant concern to many in the borough is the obligation placed upon the town for new house building: –
- Southend to build 6500 new homes between 2001 and 2021.
- 1,000 new homes earmarked for Shoeburyness.
- Expansion of the University campus will require additional student accommodation.
Clearly, constructing new homes on land which will be flooded in the years to come is unacceptable and will be opposed by all responsible people. It is surprising that Renaissance Southend should promote such a short sighted notion. Southend Council must reject this element and look instead to areas of the borough which enjoy a safer, higher, elevation.
But the construction of new homes can bring unexpected opportunities. By building high density homes on some of the towns car parks, the town can both find the additional space needed for many of the new homes and reduce demand for travel by car. Most of the car parks in central Southend are well above sea level, for example, Farringdon, Tylers Avenue and Whitegate Road, but even Seaway has potential.
The dynamic vision for a forward looking, environmentally responsible town.
Carbon Zero New Housing
The council should inform all developers that the town is looking to promote carbon zero homes. In future all applications which include the highest standards of insulation, energy efficiency and micro energy generation (solar water, ground source heat pump, CHP, PV, etc.) will receive favourable consideration.
Larger developments of 50 or more homes to include energy generation facilities which should have the capacity to meet two times the needs of the proposed new homes. So, if an application were submitted to build 50 new homes, the developer would be required to install energy generating features which will provide energy for 50 more homes in the immediate vicinity. Examples might be: wind turbine, bio-mass CHP plant, ground source heat pump.
It is vital that the social, educational and health implications of new housing estates must be considered. A substantial number of affordable homes must be built with employment opportunities nearby, thereby reducing the need to commute long distances.
Existing Housing Stock
The Council should vigorously pursue the options of providing council tax rebates and paying significant grants to those home owners that install high standards of insulation and solar water heaters. The town should seek to join the British Gas rebate scheme and look to other sources of funding to promote Southend as a dynamic centre for the installation of renewable technologies and energy efficiency.
By deploying the full range of incentives, the council should aim to ensure the refurbishment of 5% of existing homes per annum, bringing them up to the highest standards of insulation and providing solar water heaters in all suitable accommodation.
The employment opportunities are significant, with the potential to create 220 permanent jobs within the insulation and solar water heating sectors. A further 80 permanent jobs could be created by pursuing a similar scheme with Essex Water to provide discounts for the installation of rainwater collection tanks to flush toilets (5% of homes fitted per annum).
Merton, Sutton and the Newquay (growth area)
The council should examine the superb progress made in other areas, including the British Gas rebate scheme in Braintree, and develop a new town plan with a totally new emphasis upon job creation in the energy efficiency and renewable technologies. Huge progress can be made now towards but the Council will need the right people with the determination to lobby for and pursue the policies needed at regional and national level that will ensure the highest possible standards of housing and the greatest possible levels of job creation.
The University campus
The need for new accommodation for 1,000 students provides a huge opportunity to ensure that the developer brings to the town the very most exciting renewable technologies. Here is an opportunity to undo the mistakes of the past, turning our backs on buildings which leak heat and embracing the most progressive of options. The new development must be 100% carbon zero, generating all heat and electricity on site. Here is a superb opportunity for a large scale ground source heat and two or three town centre wind turbines. The new London Beacon design, which overcomes the problems of wind variability in urban areas, would represent a superb opportunity for the town.
Transport and Tourism – sustainable, responsible, job creation.
The Renaissance Southend plan places great emphasis upon job creation from the aviation sector despite the fact this is unsustainable and contributes to the greenhouse effect which, unless checked, will lead to the loss of vast areas of the town in just a few decades.
The responsible vision is to promote the low lying south east of the county as a cycling and boating destination, attracting tens of thousands of people from London here for short breaks. The Council should work with Rochford DC and create a safe cycle route, linked to segregated cycle paths and roads with a new 20 mph speed limit. A route should be established on or beside existing roads which ensures the most direct and scenic routes around the coast to the main beauty spots from Leigh and a new cinder path cycle lane, along the 7 miles of town foreshore, to Great Wakering, Barling, Paglesham, Canewdon, Wallsea Island and the ferry link to Burnham. The Council should also seek access to Potton and Foulness Islands for birdwatchers.
The town should promote itself as a family friendly eco-destination, working with the private sector to provide boating, wind surfing and sailing events.
The Community Wind Farms.
Two wind turbines should be constructed with viewing platforms, modelled upon the hugely successful Swaffham design. Ideally one should be to the east, in Shoeburyness, the other to the West, on Two Tree Island. The viewing platforms should link to the cycle path network, adding an exciting new facility to attract tourists to the area. Not only will the two wind turbines bring new tourism but they will provide zero emission electricity to the town.
Looking further to the future, the Council should vigorously pursue the construction of a larger wind farm to the east of the town, possibly on Foulness Island. The employment opportunities and environmental benefits are vital to such a low lying area which will feel the worse impacts of climate change and sea level rise far sooner than the majority of UK towns. The Borough should also vigorously pursue the potential to build a tidal lagoon power plant perhaps in conjunction with a yacht marina.
Rapid transit bus/coach system.
The Renaissance Southend vision for a new rapid transit bus/coach network appears to be sound but must link with and compliment existing bus and rail services. The major obstacle however is the excessive use of the private motor car with which the town has historically been cursed. A range of measures should be employed to reduce car use, including the gradual removal of certain car parking facilities, bus and coach priority on the main arterial routes into and out of town and the encouragement of walking and cycling for an ever greater proportion of internal trips which are currently made by car. The 20 mph speed limit should become the norm in residential areas.
The town needs an integrated transport plan which will deliver traffic reduction. Not only will this lead to an improvement of our quality of life, it will help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the greatest threat we currently face.
S E Essex Friends of the Earth (July 2007)