Providing quality services for the future health, education, sports and leisure and community needs of the Borough’s residents are fundamental factors in achieving a high quality of life, and with a growing population it is essential that these are planned in such a way that they meet the future demands that are placed upon the town. The existing and projected future capacity of physical infrastructure is also essential to the planning and phasing of future development. The provision of community services and infrastructure is the responsibility of a range of public and private bodies.
Utility provision is at or close to capacity in some locations. Combined sewers cause issues in parts of the Borough while in other areas there are issues with the capacity of the electricity network to accommodate growth. Enhancements will be required in the existing urban area and new infrastructure carefully planned for new development. The increased use of sustainable technologies should also be incorporated wherever possible.
The new local plan will need to plan for an increase in primary healthcare facilities (e.g. GP surgeries) to meet projected population growth over the next twenty years. This will need to reflect changing models of healthcare provision with a move towards larger, purpose built GP practices and specialisation within hospitals as well as moves to provide more care in the community and an emphasis on preventative care. Similarly new infrastructure to support social and community health care provision to meet the needs of a growing older and vulnerable population will need to be put in place.
It will be essential that the new local plan ensures that appropriate education facilities are planned to meet future needs as the local population grows. The Southend Central Area Action Plan already provides for the expansion of existing facilities at the University of Essex and South Essex College campus in the town centre. Some existing schools in the Borough are already at or close to capacity. While in a number of locations there is room to expand, this is not always the case and new Primary and Secondary School sites will be required to accommodate development needs.
Southend has a good network of different types of sports and leisure facilities. Our evidence suggests supply and demand for most sports are and will be in balance, with some exceptions including swimming and sports such as Netball and Futsal. Because many sports have a wide catchment the assessment has been done across local authority borders. It is expected that in the future the focus for investment will be on “hub sites” where facilities are concentrated rather than on a large number of small sites. The development of artificial 3G pitches is expected to be a priority. The town’s seven miles of foreshore offers a wealth of water recreation opportunities. Such facilities are an important asset in providing residents with the opportunities to participate in a range of sports and leisure facilities.
Southend United Football Club has for a number of years sought to relocate its football ground from its current home at Roots Hall to Fossetts Farm on the northern edge of the Borough. To make it viable, the scheme includes a number of additional retail, leisure and ancillary facilities as well as new housing and community facilities. The retail element will need to be carefully considered so that it is not detrimental to the vitality and viability of the town centre.
Over the coming decades the provision of quality digital technology will be essential. Southend is at the forefront of initiatives to bring superfast broadband to the area through a Fibre to the Premise (FTTP) programme. It will be vital that the new local plan for Southend embraces this in all new development schemes.