Town centre future to be discussed by cabinet

June 25, 2019 by

Work to boost Southend town centre, including setting up a formal partnership to deliver it will be discussed by the council’s cabinet next week. 

A report to cabinet on 25 June will seek approval of a number of short, medium and long-term recommendations within the in-depth scrutiny project: ‘Re-imagining the town centre.’

The recommendations were developed with the help of a project team and a reference group, to make sure a diverse group of people with the expertise, experience and ideas relating to town centres were actively involved with the development of the report and the proposals it contains.

Work in the short-term could include making more of the historical architecture of the High Street through lighting and trails, simplifying the events application process and setting up a shop-front scheme. It is also hoped that the public realm could be improved and that the entrances to the town centre could be regenerated.

In the medium to longer-term, it is planned to introduce more green space into central Southend, for the council to consider leasing and purchasing key buildings as appropriate and to explore use of vacant buildings is explored for different uses such as a comedy store, arts and entertainment venue, digital ‘supervenue’ and maker spaces, for an evolving town centre 

Other recommendations include:

·       Creating dedicated performance spaces, such as a permanent and covered piazza.

·       That opportunities for more and better quality employment spaces are actively pursued and integrated into the town centre

·       That Southend’s digital capacity is exploited to attract retailer trialling concept stores using new technology

·       Making the arrival into the town centre more welcoming, including outside Southend Central and Southend Victoria train stations

Cllr Kevin Robinson, cabinet member for culture, tourism and business, and chair of the joint scrutiny working group says: “Town centres up and down the country are facing the challenges of changing retail trends, socio-economic shifts, and cuts to local government budgets. However, this is not the first time town centres have had to adapt. They have evolved over time, and this is yet another transition point.

“The scrutiny report builds on the work done through our 2050 programme, where we listened to local people about what they want and expect from their town centre of the future.

“I am delighted that cabinet is being asked to agree the recommendations of the report, and as the local authority we are well placed to start working to set up a driven partnership with other individuals and organisations to make the proposals a reality and ensure we have a town centre that can thrive into the future.”

The full report will be presented as part of the agenda for cabinet on Tuesday 25 June.

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