2.5 Town Centre and Central Seafront

What does this Issue Cover?

  • Promoting Southend as the Region’s first choice coastal tourism destination
  • Identifying appropriate new sites and regeneration opportunities for tourism, leisure and new homes
  • Assessing the need for a flexible approach to uses in the town centre, such as allowing more food and drink, leisure and civic uses, more housing (above ground floor)
  • Improving links between Southend town centre, the central seafront area and surrounding residential areas
  • Enhancing streets and spaces to create a quality, linked public realm, and improving access to and provision of green space
  • Increasing the residential population within the town centre, with residents benefitting from easy access to a range of facilities
  • Improving accessibility to the town centre and central seafront area for all transport modes, enhancing walking and cycling routes
  • Identifying appropriate sites for visitor accommodation

What information or evidence do we need for this issue?

  • Reimaging the Town Centre Joint Scrutiny Project 2018/19
  • Southend Retail and Leisure Study 2018
  • Destination Southend on Sea
  • National Statistics – Visit Britain – the national tourism agency
  • Southend Culture Vision 2021

Related Southend 2050 Outcomes - where we want to be

  • The variety and quality of our outstanding cultural and leisure offer has increased for our residents and visitors and we have become the region’s first choice coastal tourism destination
  • We have a fast evolving, re-imagined and thriving town centre, with an inviting mix of shops, homes, culture and leisure opportunities
  • There is a tangible sense of pride and local people are actively, and knowledgeably, talking up Southend
  • Our streets and public spaces are valued and support the mental and physical wellbeing of residents and visitors
  • People have a wide choice of transport options

Recent Improvements and Committed Schemes

A number of recent improvements have either been completed or are committed in the town centre. These include:

  • public realm improvements in the London Road between Queensway and College Way completed in 2018;
  • improving highway accessibility to the east of the town centre from Queensway completed in August 2020;
  • further public realm improvements to the London Road, east of College Way to be completed in 2021;
  • public realm improvements around The Forum programmed for completion in September 2021;
  • the Better Queensway housing regeneration led project recently granted planning permission;
  • planning permission for a major leisure complex with associated car parking on Seaway at the southern end of Queensway;

The public realm improvements have principally been achieved through the successful securing of external funding. 

The Borough Council has also recently taken a proactive role in seeking to regenerate the town centre by the purchase of the freehold for the Victoria Plaza indoor shopping area at the northern end of the High Street.

Southend Central Area Action Plan Proposals

The Southend Central Area Action Plan (SCAAP) was adopted in 2018 and establishes specific planning policies to control and promote development in the Central Area including site allocations.

The SCAAP establishes ten policy areas containing their own objectives and approach to guide and manage development proposals and investment. It also identifies eleven opportunity sites aimed at promoting the regeneration of the Central Area.

The Southend New Local Plan will supersede the provisions of the SCAAP and therefore its site proposals are considered further in this consultation document.

The SCAAP was prepared and adopted before the full impact of changes to retail shopping patterns mainly as a result of increases in on-line shopping, which dramatically affected the vitality of the High Street accentuated by the demise of several well-known national stores. There have also been radical changes made to planning legislation by the Government which affects the level of controls over development proposals in the High Street moving from a retail policy approach to promoting a greater mix of uses. Even more significantly, the SCAAP was prepared before the significant impact of the Covid Pandemic.

Therefore, although there are many policy provisions in the SCAAP which are still valid and could be transferred to the New Local Plan, others need to be reviewed in the light of the major issues that face the future role and development of the area.

What You Told Us

In response to the New Local Plan Issues and Options document you highlighted a number of detailed issues and other matters of concern relating to the future development of the town centre and central seafront area. These included:

  • the need for greater diversification from retail including community hubs;
  • bringing vacant buildings back into use to improve the image of the centre;
  • the supporting of higher density residential development close to the town centre and transport nodes and conversion of upper floors above shops;
  • redevelopment of the Travel Centre with better integration between travel modes;
  • key visitor car parking continues to be safeguarded and supported by other transport measures;
  • improved links between the town centre and seafront;
  • implementation of Phase 2 of the City Beach scheme eastwards along Eastern Esplanade;
  • comprehensive improvements to the public realm; and
  • the identification of the area as being deficient in green infrastructure, notably the need for more tree planting, biodiversity measures, and sustainable drainage provision.

Developing Proposals for the Town Centre and Central Seafront

Building on your feedback and the relevant provisions of the adopted Southend Central Area Action Plan (SCAAP), whilst radically reviewing policy provisions in relation to the High Street and other opportunities, is key to providing for a future sound policy framework for the Town Centre and central seafront.

Your views on a vision, policy approach and specific land use proposals and opportunity sites are sought before a preferred detailed policy framework is developed for the next stage of public consultation on the Southend New Local Plan.

Draft Town Centre and Central Seafront Vision

It will be important to develop a specific vision for Southend Central setting out what we want the area to look like in twenty years’ time. This will provide the framework for the development of specific strategic objectives and policy approaches.

A suggested vision is set out below, building on that set out in the SCAAP:

‘The town centre and central seafront will be a destination 'City by the Sea'. Regeneration and the reinvention of the town centre’s traditional retail core with improved links to the Central Seafront has provided for a prosperous and thriving centre, resort and residential area. It will be an area that is vibrant, safe and hospitable, rich in heritage, commerce, learning and culture and an attractive, diverse place where people want to live, work and visit for both day trips, overnight and longer stays. Its iconic Pier will be the focus of a thriving tourism industry reflecting Southend’s status as one of the country’s favourite coastal destinations’.

This vision is purely a suggestion to stimulate and guide comment.

Question 2.5.1 Town Centre and Central Seafront - Vision

Have your say……… Please explain your answers

a. Do you agree with the suggested vision for the town centre and central seafront?

Draft Policy Approach

In the light of changing retail patterns and the need to move from a retail policy approach to promoting a greater mix of uses, the town centre needs to be reimagined and refocussed to ensure that it adapts and evolves to retain its role as a vibrant thriving regional centre that:

  • is animated by day and by evening;
  • offers a range of experiences and reasons to stay (including for families/for all ages);
  • provides an environment where people want to live and visit;
  • is designed to foster healthy living and addresses inequalities; and
  • its characteristics are well understood, underpinned by robust evidence, and that the vision for the town centre and its unique selling points are well communicated.

One possible policy approach is to integrate the town centre based on seven main themes/ zones for different areas:

BOX 1: Potential themes and zones within the Town Centre and Central Seafront

  • Support high quality urban living centred around Victoria Avenue and northern end of the high street as a gateway to the town centre.
  • Pivot to a more local community focussed centre at the northern end of the high street.
  • Develop the education and learning culture focussed around The Forum and that part of the high street.
  • Promote and enhance the strong cultural identity of Clifftown.
  • Consolidate retail function to the southern section of the High Street with improved linkages to the central seafront.
  • Build upon the significant tourism, cultural and leisure potential of the central seafront area.
  • Enhance the neighbourhood areas around the town centre through improved public realm, urban greening and connectivity.

These main themes would also incorporate a mix of leisure, community, niche office space and residential uses to promote a vibrant and liveable centre. Public realm improvements to provide for integrated walking and cycling facilities and the greening of the centre would also be vital ingredients. The heritage assets of the neighbourhood would be celebrated, reinforcing local character and distinctiveness, and providing an important link to the past. New development will be imaginative and dynamic in its design, delivering higher densities reflecting its central location.

The Town Centre will be the main transport hub for the Borough with integrated rail and bus facilities providing frequent and reliable services. Car parking facilities will support a thriving centre and be safeguarded in the southern section of the neighbourhood to promote and support the tourism sector whilst Travel Plans will look to even traffic flows, particularly in the peak summer months, through the use of smart technology and by encouraging the use of public transport, especially rail.

Question 2.5.2 Town Centre and Central Seafront - Policy Approach

Have your say………Please explain your answers

a. Do you think this policy approach would form a sound basis for developing more detailed planning policies for the town centre and central seafront?

b. Do you agree with the potential main themes/ zones for the Town Centre and Central Seafront as outlined in Box 1 above?

c. Do you think an alternative policy approach would be preferable? If so, please detail what you think this should be.

SCAAP Allocated Sites

There are a number of allocated sites identified in the SCAAP, some of which have since been completed or are committed for development with a valid planning permission. These are set out in Table 15 and illustrated in Map 9. Those SCAAP sites that have planning permission and are committed will be re-allocated as such within the New Local Plan.

Table 15: SCAAP Allocated Sites




Proposed Land Use (including number of new homes with or without

planning permission)



Elmer Square Phase 2

Cultural and learning and supporting uses, including cafes, commercial workspace and


Short term delivery uncertain


Better Queensway


Residential (Approx. 1760 (Net 1268)), social and community uses, secondary town

centre uses, including small retail units and cafes

Planning Permission. Committed Scheme.


Tylers Avenue Car Park

Retail, residential, public parking, transport interchanges



Southend Pier

Leisure and cultural uses, including cafes, restaurants and small shops




Leisure, tourism, restaurants, cinema, hotel, public parking

Planning Permission. Committed Scheme.


Marine Plaza

Residential, leisure, restaurants, local shops

Planning Permission. Committed Scheme


New Southend Museum,

Western Esplanade

Cultural, leisure, public parking, supporting café, restaurant and shops

Museum proposal in this location now

not to proceed


Victoria Avenue

Residential, office, convenience retail, leisure, cafes, community facilities, public


Majority Complete


Baxter Avenue




Sutton Road

Residential and community uses

Majority Complete


Guildford Road

Residential and convenience retail


Map 9: SCAAP Allocated Sites
Scaap Allocated sites

It is proposed that those allocated sites that are still outstanding be carried forward into the Southend New Local Plan with the Western Esplanade sites’ proposed land use description amended to reflect the more recent decision not to proceed with a new museum development in this location. This site offers the opportunity to provide for either improved green space and recreational facilities or comprehensive development for a hotel, leisure and residential use and to facilitate the reinstatement of the Bandstand and associated facilities in this location on the roof of a new development scheme. These sites and the proposed revised land use description are set out in Table 16.

Table 16: Allocated Sites from SCAAP proposed to be taken forward into New Local Plan

SCAAP Site Ref

Site Assessment Ref

Proposed Land Use (including number of new homes without planning permission)

Elmer Square Phase 2



Cultural and learning and supporting uses, including cafes,

commercial workspace and studios

Tylers Avenue Car Park (PA7.1)


Convenience retail, residential (approx. 150), public parking, transport interchanges


Pier                    (CS1.1)


Leisure and cultural uses, including cafes, restaurants, and small


Western Esplanade Site (CS1.4)


Improved green and recreational space or a mixture of residential, hotel, cultural, leisure, public parking, supporting café, restaurant and shops. Roof gardens to complement Clifftown Parade gardens incorporating the reinstatement of Bandstand and associated facilities.

Victoria Avenue (PA8.1)

HEA097, HEA101, HEA102, HEA252

Several areas within the wider site yet to be developed for residential (Approx. 570)

Baxter Avenue (PA8.2)


Residential (Approx. 610 (Net 350)

Sutton Road (PA9.1)

HEA061, HEA098, HEA099, HEA154

Remaining site yet to be developed for residential (Approx. 31 Sutton Road North and 56 Sutton Road South),

Guildford Road (PA9.2)


Residential (up to 50), convenience retail

Map 10 – SCAAP Allocated Sites without Planning Permission
Scaap Allocated sites without planning permission

Question 2.5.3 Town Centre and Central Seafront – Allocated Sites

Have your say………Please explain your answers

a. Do you agree that the SCAAP Opportunity Sites and amended wording as set out in Table 15 and Map 9 should be carried forward into the Southend New local Plan? If not what amendments would you like? Please reference the site number when making your response.

Additional Opportunities and Interventions

If Southend Central is to be reimagined and refocussed to ensure that it adapts and evolves to meet future needs, a more radical visionary approach is needed to identify potential opportunities and interventions.

Such potential opportunities running from north to south of the neighbourhood are identified in Map 11 and Table 17. These opportunities are not currently adopted Council policy and are purely suggestions to stimulate and guide comment on how the town centre could be reimagined.

Too view and comment on other land use proposals, including those sites being promoted to us for re-development, employment land designations, proposed protected green spaces and access to infrastructure please refer to Part 3: Southend Neighbourhoods - Section 3.4: Southend Central

Map 11: Potential Additional Opportunities and Interventions

Map 10 - Potential additional opportunities and interventions

Table 17: Potential Additional Opportunities and Sites




Potential Land Use



Civic Quarter Victoria


Relocation of civic offices, art gallery and museum functions to town

centre. Residential led development of the area.

Long Term Scheme


Victoria Shopping


Refurbishment for mixed use scheme including shops, cafes,

restaurants, public services, leisure and residential

Short - Long Term Scheme. Owned by Southend Borough



Northern Gateway to Town Centre

Mixed use redevelopment, comprising commercial, residential with the opportunity to provide taller buildings and visitor accommodation with good links to Victoria train station.


Improved public realm, landscaping and seating and the creation of a wider/improved pedestrian gateway to the town centre

Short/Medium Term Scheme

Links with public realm improvements to the London Road east of College Way


High Street, north- west side

Break through High Street to open up The Forum and facilitate the creation of public events space. Additional cultural and learning and

supporting uses

Long Term Scheme.

Potential to incorporate as part of the Elmer Square Phase 2 development (see Table 16 above).


Warrior Square Car Park

Possible redevelopment for residential (with possible relocation of civic services)

Medium/Long Term Scheme

Local character and distinctiveness of the Warrior Conservation Area to be respected.

Loss of existing parking could be offset through increased provision at Tylers (See Table 16 above).


Central Railway


Redevelopment of adjacent land for residential and civic space,

including landscaping around station

Medium Term Scheme


High Street

Rationalisation of highway space to create extensive landscaping

Short/Medium Term Scheme


High Street

Encourage residential use above shop/commercial units

Short/Medium Term Scheme


Chichester Road

Rationalisation of road space to create cycle lane and extensive

landscaping with links to High Street

Medium Term Scheme


Market Place

Promote plot by plot refurbishment and redevelopment for independent small-scale shops, boutiques, cafés, bars and small studio style workshops with live/ work units and residential uses above

ground floor level

Medium Term Scheme.

Local character and distinctiveness of the Clifftown Conservation Area to be respected.


Royals Shopping


Mixed use scheme including shops, cafes, restaurants, leisure and


Medium/ Long Term Scheme


Royals precinct (top of

Pier Hill)

Creation of outdoor seating/cafes/landscaping with public events

space (linked to scheme 13)

Medium Term Scheme


Golden Mile Marine Parade

Contains Opportunities for mixed-use redevelopment, including for leisure, cafes and residential above. Creation of new pedestrian link to Marine Parade from the town centre designed around the concept of

‘Spanish Steps’.

Medium Term Scheme


Eastern Esplanade

City Beach Phase 2 – Eastern Esplanade (from The Kursaal to Victoria


Medium Term Scheme

Extensive public realm improvements


Kursaal, Eastern


Refurbishment for mixed use scheme including leisure, cafes,

restaurants, hotel, residential, parking and ancillary shops

Short/Medium Term


Western Esplanade

City Beach Phase 3 – Western Esplanade (from The Pier to Cliffs


Long Term Scheme

Extensive public realm improvements


Former Gas Works, Eastern Esplanade

Considered suitable for a major mixed-use scheme that could include residential, leisure, cafes and restaurants and parking

Long Term Scheme

The site has now been cleared and laid out for temporary public parking

These potential additional opportunities and sites are aspirational in their approach, aimed at continuing the regeneration of the area and securing its long-term sustainable future. Your views are sought on these potential schemes and any other thoughts you may have on alternative schemes and how the regeneration of the area could be effectively promoted and achieved.

Question 2.5.4 Town Centre and Central Seafront - Potential Opportunities and Interventions

Have your say………Please explain your answers

a. Do you agree with the identified potential opportunities set out in Table 17? Please include the map reference when making your response.

b. Are there any other ways in which the regeneration of Southend Central could be promoted and achieved? Please explain your answer.