Rayleigh arts centre flats plan scrapped

Plans to turn a town’s popular arts and events centre into flats and a scaled-down community hall will be scrapped by Rochford District Council, its leader has said.

The authority’s original plan was to redevelop Mill Arts Events Centre, in Rayleigh, into dozens of flats as well as a smaller, carbon-neutral community facility – but that was met with hefty public opposition.

The council leader, Councillor Simon Wootton, also said whatever proposal comes next for the new civic centre will have to be “self-funded”.

The district council published information in late 2020 that discussed plans for a downsized community hub as part of a wider plan to redevelop six assets.

Cllr Wootton said the Mill Arts Events Centre plan will be the only one of those six which will be altered.

While promising that new plans will not involve housing, the new centre will have to be able to fund the build, he added.

Cllr Wootton said: “That is the difference and that is why I am much more excited.

“If we take it one stage at a time we put forward a plan and that plan itself was commercially viable and robust in itself.

“But we have listened and there has been significant enough feeling against residential property there.

“That was the funding mechanism and it was cost neutral and that no longer exists but what we are committed to in Rochford which sets us apart is we are committed to providing a community facility.

“We say we need to deal with these old facilities but we need to regenerate them in a new way so they meet demand for the future.”

Any new scheme for the Mill Hall site as a whole will be subject to a further options analysis. This will include an in-person engagement process with the public to gauge views before a final decision is made on what the final plans should look like.

He added: “I am committed to wanting to make sure we end up on that site with a facility which meets the community needs in its broadest sense.

He added: The cost neutral bit now won’t exist because we will not be building residential property there. We will have to look at a complete new business case.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter