Work is underway on the next phase of a project to modernise a major gateway into Southend town centre.
The £4m Southend Central Area Transport Scheme (S-CATS) – funded through the Local Growth Fund - seeks to improve travel and public spaces in the town centre to support housing and employment growth.
The plans were approved by Full Council in June 2020 and, following the easing of lockdown measures, work recommenced and is now expected to be completed April 2021.
Key features of the works include:
· Realigning the road to restrict vehicles and encourage more pedestrian to move freely throughout the area, with new access restrictions onto the High Street from London Road to be controlled by CCTV and a rising bollard system
· Landscaping improvements with Sustainable Urban Drainage System
· New trees, greenery and planters
· Modern paving improving accessibility and the general look of the area
· Improved street lighting and CCTV
· Relocating taxi bays along London Road
· New secure cycle parking, benches and planters
· Better signage and wayfinding measures to key destinations in and around the High Street
Cllr Ron Woodley, cabinet member for transport, capital and inward investment, said: “Victoria Circus and London Road are a main gateway into the High Street, and as such we are keen to improve this area.
“The designs were devised following many different consultation events, where residents and businesses have told us what they would like to see. Improved street lighting and introducing trees and planters were a common theme, and so I am pleased that the works will include these aspects.
“With the challenges that came with the pandemic, we had to delay the works whilst we battled the virus, but I am delighted to see works recommence so that we can create an area that invites visitors and will hopefully boost numbers for the local businesses in the area.”
Cllr Kevin Robinson, cabinet member for business, culture and tourism, welcomed the investments: “Like many areas across the country, Southend High Street is facing unprecedented challenges, now more so than ever before.
“This funding – secured from the Local Growth Fund (LGF) – must be used explicitly on highways and will help us provide a more attractive environment for shoppers, visitors and potential and achieve far more than could have been imagined through our finances alone.
“This area has needed investment for some time, so I am pleased to see the works begin to take shape, and I look forward to seeing the completed works.”
South East Local Enterprise Partnership chair, Christian Brodie, said: “We are really pleased to see this project moving forward. As shopping and leisure habits continue to change and our communities are becoming more digitally driven, it is vital we make our town centres more attractive places to visit, and easier and safer to get around for cyclists and pedestrians.
“The health and wellbeing of our town centres has a significant impact on the area’s economy and influences investment decisions and the ability to attract and retain businesses and visitors.”
The work forms part of SUNRISE: a European pilot project on co-creation and improving accessibility in the High Street. The plans were formed following extensive consultation with residents, local businesses and other key stakeholders with all data collected being used to inform the design process.
Following the consultations, stakeholders said they wanted:
• To pedestrianise London Road
• Provide more green space
• Give us somewhere to sit and relax
• Give us somewhere to hold events
• Improve the lighting to make us feel safe
• Give us a reason to come to the High Street