The report on pages 45 – 52 was introduced by Andy Millard and a presentation was given by Justin Thomas to support the report.
The Chair questioned whether there were plans to transform the Grays Town Shopping Centre into a housing venture. He also questioned how many residential units were proposed. Justin Thomas said that New River was currently looking at opportunities in discussion with the Council to identify the most appropriate scheme. He explained that the organisation was looking at the capacity of the location which had the potential for tall buildings that suggested several hundred new homes to support the housing needed. He went on to say that the town centre would support and benefit from a residential led redevelopment and that the town centre would also benefit from a redesign that would create more public open space in the heart of the town with the right volume of retail.
Councillor Kerin noted that there was a lot of focus on Grays Beach Park and Kilverts Field and was concerned on how people would access these sites as the car parks near these were part of the housing list. He said the aim was to promote the area as a tourist spot but if the car parks were removed, visitors would not be able to park there to visit the areas. He also questioned the total number of residential units that could be developed. David Moore answered that the sites on the Housing Development Options List were still being considered and that no decision had been made about the car park site as to whether they could be turned into housing developments. The service was investigating the car parking sites that Councillor Kerin had mentioned but the Grays towns fund bid proposals (and any resultant demand for car parking) would also be considered and reflected in any decisions made about the sites.
Following on, Councillor Kerin said that the scheme was exciting but felt that it did not factor in how people would be able to access parking to visit Grays Beach Park and the riverfront. He said that the ambitions for the riverfront and the Housing Development Options List seemed to run separately and that there needed to be joined up working on both sides. He also questioned if there was an estimate on the potential number of residential units if the car parks were to be removed. David Moore explained that the Housing Development Options List had been brought to Full Council in January 2020 and since then, the service had been developing the Grays Towns Fund Bid. He went on to say that the Council had not decided how the sites were to be developed but it was part of the work to be undertaken to identify demand for car park spaces as well as for housing development. The scheme was currently a proposal and Members’ comments would be taken into consideration. He said that there was no figure earmarked for the number of potential residential units in regards to the car parks mentioned and that the town investment plan also focused on a sustainable transport scheme. The aim was to encourage people to move away from cars and to use sustainable transport and that the Grays Town Fund bid included a proposal for a river bus to dock at a new Grays jetty, to allow passengers to travel into London as well as across the Thames.
Andy Millard drew the Committee’s attention to paragraph 3.8 of the report which highlighted the project’s areas to focus on to complement the current schemes taking place in Grays. He asked for the Committee’s views on these areas.
Councillor Anderson noted that there was not much information on heritage in Grays whereas the next report included more information on heritage in Tilbury and questioned how heritage would be enhanced and conserved in Grays. David Moore answered that the scheme aimed to encourage people to visit the riverfront and this scheme would run in conjunction with other schemes that were currently running to try to improve the area north of the railway line. He explained that each town fund board was able to set up its own area of focus and the Grays board had chosen to focus on the geographic area instead of heritage. Justin Thomas added that the heritage reference in the presentation related to the connectivity between the river and Grays town. He went on to say that historical reviews had shown that the railway line had split the town in two and whilst the underpass was not part of the town fund, it was a significant part of that heritage in regards to connection. The jetty reinforced the commercial use of the wharf but by reintroducing a ferry use there, it would revitalise the wharf which used to be very active.
Andy Millard asked that an additional recommendation (1.4) be added for the Committee to agree on, which the Committee agreed.
Members of Planning, Transport, and Regeneration Committee were asked to:-
1.1 note the work of the Town Board in progressing the Town Investment Plan.
1.2 note the intention to submit a Town Investment Plan, based on the ongoing stakeholder engagement and indicative projects described in this report.
1.3 note that further reports will be submitted at a later date with details of projects prior to completion of a Town Deal with Government.
1.4 provide a letter of support to the work of the Town Board and that this support will be submitted as evidence for the Town Investment Plan when it is submitted in January 2021.