Following the inaccurate reporting of my comments last week the Echo has now done the decent thing and run the fuller more accurate record of my views, for which I thank them-
IF Southend is to thrive, we need to provide homes for future generations. That is why I have started a debate about whether we should allow more tall buildings in certain parts of the borough.
Following my interview in the Echo, let me make it clear I did not suggest we should put families into tower blocks.
To relieve pressure for one and two-bed flats and stem the loss of family homes, we should build some taller buildings in a few locations, for sale or rental on the open market. I was discussing properties young professionals or older single individuals might be able afford to buy or rent, not social housing.
Southend is constrained to the north by Rochford green belt, to the south and east the estuary, and to the west Hadleigh Castle. Virtually all the land within Southend is currently park, woodland or built upon.
Southend needs to move forward, to increase employment, to reduce dependency on benefits and importantly to retain its youth and attract other youngsters. A town that does not encourage growth settles for decline, a growing elderly population and insufficient youngsters to provide the wherewithall to support them.
Residents object to planning applications for tall buildings, yet complain when lower four or five-storey buildings replace a pair of semis and when family housing gets converted to flats. We simply cannot have it both ways.
I do not support an explosion of tall buildings across the town any more than I support the loss of our family homes, but I do support the building of well-designed taller buildings in selected town centre and seafront sites, to remove the pressure of inappropriate development across the town and the irreplaceable loss of family homes.
The majority on the council housing list want one or two-bed flats. Most young professionals seek well-designed, centrally located one or two-bed flats and changing lifestyles has resulted in a need for one or two-bed properties for older residents.
Yet Southend seems determined to prevent taller developments. Instead we see areas like Westborough and St Luke’s hopelessly over-converted into flats and areas like Leigh are becoming magnets for flat conversion.
Meanwhile, the jewel in our town, the Prittlewell conservation area, is now but a few steps removed from bedsitland, as once elegant and sought after town houses are converted into flats.
Where there is more demand than supply it becomes very lucrative to convert homes into flats and the benefit system supports higher rents.
The areas for such taller buildings are in the adopted planning masterplan and include the Victoria Avenue hinterlands, where there are currently tall buildings like the Civic Centre, and within the central seafront area. Not Leigh or Southchurch or Thorpe Bay, nor Prittlewell or any other area where a tall building would stick out like a sore thumb or detrimentally alter an area.
If we wish to preserve the character of certain areas, if we wish to keep the town vibrant with a well balanced community, if we wish to reduce the pressure on the conversion of small family homes into flats, we must consider building taller buildings in appropriate locations.