Programme to regenerate Rochford district takes a step forward

An ambitious programme designed to regenerate the Rochford District is making headway, with a development partner expected to be selected in March.

Rochford District Council is seeking to revitalise six of its strategic sites, creating new community and civic buildings in Rochford and Rayleigh.

These key sites are being reviewed to ensure they are put to best use, particularly as under-used sites cost the taxpayer to secure and maintain. The resulting programme expects a reduction in future costs, while also creating opportunities for regeneration and economic growth.

The sites within the programme are:

  • Freight House, Rochford – the proposal is to refurbish and extend this heritage asset to give it a new lease of life; creating improved flexible spaces for civic and community use which can also be used for commercial hire;
  • Mill Arts & Events Centre, Rayleigh – to re-develop the whole of this site to provide new community and civic spaces alongside commercial and/or residential use which will raise the profile of the neighbouring heritage assets;
  • Civic Suite, Rayleigh – to re-develop the whole of this site for commercial and/or residential use; and
  • Numbers 3 – 15 South Street, Rochford (current Council offices) and Numbers 19 and 57 South Street – the proposal is to re-develop for residential use.

Since September 2019 Rochford District Council has been engaged in a procurement process to find the right development partner to help deliver this programme.

The bidders (who cannot be named yet for legal reasons) are now preparing their tenders for council evaluation, with a final decision expected in March.

The selected development partner will be working up proposals for each site in detail;  these are due to be shared with local residents and businesses in Spring 2020.

The benefits of this project are:

  • Reduction in future running costs for Council owned buildings as a result of a reduced footprint and the removal of the requirement  to maintain expensive ageing buildings which need significant repairs and maintenance.
  • Creation of new and improved flexible spaces which can be used not only for civic meetings and community purposes but also commercial hire
  • Improved efficiency in the delivery of Council business through locating the formal Chamber next to its offices
  • Improved public access to Council services in Rayleigh and continued support of important local voluntary services which currently use the Civic Suite
  • Regeneration and commercial investment in key town centre sites

All facilities at the six sites remain open and both the Freight House and the Mill Arts & Events Centre continue to take bookings.

Rochford District Council’s Portfolio Holder for Enterprise, Cllr Simon Wootton, said: “We have reached a significant milestone in this exciting and bold programme, which seeks to maximise the opportunities for the Rochford District in terms of regeneration and economic growth.

“Many of the buildings which currently form part of the Rochford District Council estate are old, with some in a very poor condition, and consequently these are costly to maintain.

“This ambitious programme expects a reduction in running costs, as we will no longer need to pay for under-used buildings.

“As well as supporting our residents and businesses by providing modern facilities, the regeneration of key sites in both Rochford and Rayleigh will also give a boost to these town centres, which will create confidence in our high streets and encourage inward investment in the years to come.” 

Rochford District Council’s Portfolio Holder for Finance, Cllr Simon Smith, said: “As an authority we are extremely prudent with tax payers’ money, and therefore we look forward to procuring the right development partner to ensure we make the very best use of Council-owned assets.”

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Mick Ferris

Editor Email: [email protected]