The main shopping centres of the Borough are the town centre and two district centres at Westcliff and Leigh. These are complemented by a number of local centres at West Leigh, Eastwood, Southchurch Road, Thorpe Bay, North Shoebury and Shoeburyness. In addition there are retail parks at the Airport, London Road, Greyhound Way and Fossetts Farm and a number of stand-alone large supermarket facilities.
Southend Town Centre
Southend town centre lies at the heart of the Borough providing a range of business, educational, retail and leisure facilities. It is focused on two indoor shopping malls connected by a long linear pedestrianised High Street. At the north of the High Street is The Victoria shopping mall and at the south is The Royals.
Like many comparable centres in the UK, Southend town centre has felt the impact of the recent economic recession and effects of changing retail patterns. Several factors have created a need for retailers to rapidly adapt their business strategies and store formats in the light of changing economic circumstances. These factors include
- reduced consumer expenditure growth
- changes in customer requirements
- growth of internet and multi-channel retailing.
The combination of these factors has resulted in an increasing number of retailers concentrating trading activities within larger centres and out-of-town retail parks in order to compete effectively with on line retailers. As a result, the strength of the comparison retail offer in larger centres continues to improve relative to small centres. This has had a negative impact on Southend in comparison to such centres as Chelmsford. It has impacted on the quality of the retail offer in Southend town centre with the majority of retailers now being value to mid-market.
However, in contrast there have been a growing number of cafes, bars and restaurants established, particularly at the northern end of the centre adjacent the Odeon cinema and at its southern end linked to the major tourist and related leisure facilities located adjacent the foreshore. This has brought a new vibrancy to the centre complemented by increasing residential provision and a growing student population centred on the town centres University campus. Leisure turnover in the centre is expected to increase over the next 20 years, the majority of this growth being in the food and drink sector.
Future demand for retail growth is therefore limited and there is an urgent need to consider alternative strategies for the town centre to retain its vitality and vibrancy. For example, there is potential to encourage a mix of uses in the centre building on its leisure, educational, tourism and cultural offer together with office and residential development opportunities.
The recently adopted Southend Central Area Action Plan (SCAAP 2018), in seeking to provide a much more flexible approach to the type of uses that should be permitted in the High Street, relaxed previous policy provisions to allow a greater mix of uses in the centre such as cafes and restaurants. It also encourages further residential development in the town centre and the expansion of the University campus and associated student accommodation.
The two district centres of Westcliff (Hamlet Court Road) and Leigh provide mainly a local retail service. Westcliff mainly performs a convenience retail role whilst its environment is of mixed quality. In contrast Leigh provides a unique selection of local independent convenience and comparison retail operators and a higher quality of retail offer. Current planning policy seeks to retain and enhance the viability of these local centres together with the other local shopping centres.
In developing new planning policies for the Boroughs’ retail centres it is important that they embrace the impact of changing retail shopping patterns and markets to ensure that they retain their vibrancy and attractiveness.
If you would like to find out more on this issue we have prepared a Retail and Town Centres Topic Paper