Flats plan for former Southend gallery set for approval

Plans to transform a decaying Southend art gallery which was sold for more than £1million look set to be approved.

Developers hope to convert the former Beecroft gallery, opposite the Cliffs Pavilion, into nine flats.

The plans would see a three-storey extension added to the building in Westcliff Avenue, along with a roof terrace.

It will replace the existing two-storey extension which once housed the galleries.

Key historic features on the building are set to be restored.

The gallery, in the Shorefield Conservation Area, was once run by a trust which included the council before being put on the market for £1million.

In a report to the development control committee which will meet on Wednesday, the Milton Conservation Society said: “The loss of the building for cultural use is regrettable but the application, for the retention and repair of the building is generally supported. The retention and protection of this building is important to the conservation area.

“The retention and reinstatement of key features is particularly welcomed.”

The Beecroft Art Gallery moved into the former Central Library in Victoria Avenue in 2016.

Recommending the application for approval, planning officers said: “The design of the development is considered to be acceptable, particularly as the proposal will result in the sensitive regeneration of a historic building which would be a significant benefit to the conservation area.”

The building, which is thought to date back to 1897, was previously the Warwick Hotel.

In 2018, Neobard Burnson Architects were appointed to transform the gallery in Station Road, Westcliff, into a complex of 20 artists’ studios after the Beecroft Trust attracted £495,000 funding from Arts Council England.

A further £80,000 funding was pledged by the Garfield Weston Foundation and Foyle Foundation but the work never got underway and eventually the scheme was axed.

Applicant, Property Point AK, claims a residential development is “the only sustainable use for the building”.

The firm has submitted plans for seven two-bedroom and two three-bedroom flats.

Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter