Southend Council set for further discussions on Westcliff conservation area

A proposal to turn Hamlet Court Road into a conservation area where strict rules are imposed to preserve its historic character and appearance will be discussed by councillors next week.

Southend Council commissioned the firm Purcell Architects to undertake a review of Hamlet Court Road in Westcliff to assess whether it could be designated a conservation area, meaning that all development needs to fit within the existing appearance of the road.

This would include restrictions being placed on the design of shop fronts and the type and design of street ‘furniture’.

In a report set to be discussed by councillors on Tuesday, the architect firm says there is a clear case for tighter controls on the northern end of the road due to the “quality of the buildings” and “the survival of their historic character”.

The assessment states: “Much of the historic character of the buildings is intact. However, the street has changed quite dramatically in the last few decades, with the loss of many historic shop fronts and inappropriate development, as well as some issues with condition, all of which have left it with a run-down appearance.”

It goes on to call replacement of shop fronts the “biggest threat” to the road as almost all of the historic front have been replaced with signs which are “out of scale, low-quality, garish, with extensive glazing, and not responsive to the historic character of the building in which they sit”.

The Hamlet Court Conservation Forum has been campaigning for the designation for the past three years and Andy Atkinson, chairman of the group, has reassured that any restrictions imposed on buildings will not be retrospective.

“It won’t be making anyone have to change anything that is already there,” he said.

“It shouldn’t be seen as a threat but a great opportunity.”

If the designation was to go ahead it would give the council an opportunity to apply for additional funding for heritage-focussed regeneration projects and enter into partnership schemes with Historic England.

The consideration is part of the council’s review of its 14 conservation areas at a cost of nearly £60,000. This review aims to update the council’s understanding of the historic and architectural elements that make up designated areas such as Leigh Old Town, Clifftown in Southend and Shoebury Garrison.

It will be discussed by the People Scrutiny Committee on Tuesday night.

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Steve Shaw

Local Democracy Reporter