A balcony is not good enough say Southend councillors as town centre flats plan is rejected

Plans to build a new block of flats in the centre of Southend have been thrown out by councillors over fears residents will not have enough open space.

The planning application for nine new flats at Baryta House on Victoria Avenue was thrown out by the members of the Development Control Committee on Wednesday night.

Councillors went against the advice of planning officers and slammed the plans for having no outdoor space other than private balconies.

Liberal Democrat councillor, Carole Mulroney, told the committee: “We are talking about three bedrooms, four person flats and a balcony is not good enough quite frankly.”

A council officer defended the plans, telling members the council’s own policy recognises balconies as “private amenity space” and warned that refusing on these grounds would not be consistent. It would also put the council as risk of an appeal.

But speaking of the council officer’s report, Labour councillor Anne Jones said: “It is disappointing that the wording of this seems to be ‘it is a bit of a shame but we are going to do it anyway’.

“Is this the design and innovation we want in this area? I would say I’m quite disappointed with this.”

Councillor Margaret Boughton (Lab) also linked the issue to COVID-19, pointing out that lockdown has proven there can be serious issues for residents when there is not enough open space.

She added: “In future I think with planning, we need to bear the response to COVID-19 in mind.”

The plans were to build a four-storey block of flats to the rear of Baryta House, which would be comprised of nine properties. The ground floor would have been for six parking spaces.

Baryta House itself has already been converted from an office block into a 12-storey block of flats.

The call for the plans to be refused was made by Independent councillor Brian Ayling, who said councillors should risk refusal despite the danger of an appeal to the secretary of state.

Mr Ayling said: “I am prepared to take the risk of refusing this one and just see how the Government are responding to the Covid-19 problems.

“This would be against our policy on the quality of housing, it would have a lack of amenity space and I disagree with parking as well, it is too low.”

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Steve Shaw

Local Democracy Reporter