Fresh plans submitted for Shoebury Common play area

Fresh plans have been put forward for a play area in Southend, despite previous fears over road safety.

Members of Southend Council’s Development Committee had made the controversial decision to refuse planning permission for the play area on Shoebury Common North in January.

But the latest plan, which outlines the creation of the area using a “nautical theme”, has addressed the concerns through a road safety assessment which has concluded the design is now safe.

Labour councillor Daniel Cowan, who is a member of the Development Committee and who voted in favour of the original plans, said he believes the committee’s decision in January was “wrong”.

“In this case, I personally struggle to find any reason and especially a reason in planning law to reject it,” he said.

“It met the criteria for policy, it had a huge amount of support from the local community and it was done in consultation with resident groups and councillors from across the chamber but it was rejected on safety issues. Planning officers responded to those concerns but that didn’t satisfy the majority so they chose to reject it, which was frustrating.”

He added that arguments over safety centred on whether parents would let their children cross the road unsupervised but that is not a legitimate planning consideration.

Under the plans, the play areas would be divided into three sections. The first would be for toddlers and include climbing apparatus based around the design of a boat, which planning documents say “will appeal to this younger age range who thrive when using their imagination during their play”.

A slide, themed seesaw and a pirate ship would also be included.

Another area would be for children of all ages and include a climbing frame and a roundabout.

The final section of the play area is designed for an older age range of up to 14 years old and consist of a large platform that children will have to work out how to reach using nets or by jumping from a climbing post.

When the decision was scrutinised by councillors at a Full Council meeting in March it led to fierce arguments in the council chamber.

Councillor Steven Wakefield (Ind), who is also member of the Development Control Committee, said at the time: “I am not against putting play areas up but I am against putting children’s lives at risk.”

The new plans will be discussed during an upcoming Development Control Committee.

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Steve Shaw

Local Democracy Reporter