A presentation will be given at the meeting.
Stephen Haines, David Lock Associates, provided members with a presentation on the Thurrock Town Centre Study. This presentation can be viewed from the following link:
Councillor Redsell thanked Stephen Haines for the presentation and commented that however much we want to get cars off the roads this was not going happen. That most people going to Lakeside, particularly to the Lakeside Basin, would not go by bus as going by car was easy and had free parking. Councillor Redsell had reservations about the houses in the middle of the Lakeside Basin and questioned the pollution levels. Councillor Redsell questioned the closure of Village Road in Aveley Town Centre and stated that shutting that road off and to get traffic to travel away from that small area there was not much more that could be done. Stephen Haines stated there were discussions taking place with the planning department for a new link road that would take away a large number of HGVs. That a detailed design would need to be done that would take traffic out or to restrict the traffic and could have the opportunity to enhance the area without having to close Aveley High Street. Stephen Haines agreed that the Lakeside Basin was not the most appropriate for residential but a retail model would need to be undertaken over the next five years to look at future plans for Lakeside, discussions on how the area could be future proofed, have discussions with developers and landowners, look at how retail worked and the mix of users, to look at public transport strategy and to include the walking and cycling networks.
Councillor Redsell stated that accidents at Lakeside caused nightmares for drivers and closed Thurrock down. She commented that the bus transport to Lakeside was good but questioned how many people used it and commented that she did not agree that people would cycle to Lakeside. Stephen Haines stated the local plan would address sustainable modes of public transport.
Councillor Watson questioned what was in the plan to ensure Members and residents that road infrastructures were underway. Stephen Haines state that consultations were being held with officers, a consultation on transport modes was being undertaken and stated that future plans could not be supported if the infrastructure was not in place.
Councillor Kerin asked for some clarification that the report was not just about housing in town centres. Stephen Haines stated this was the methodology on how the work would be undertaken by looking at potential sites, opportunities and regeneration areas. That another consultation would be appointed to look at health and retail functions. That this was an opportunity for development and for the retail functions and was mindful not to just replace empty retail space with houses but to keep this retail space as well and look how this could be linked into regeneration.
Councillors Collins questioned the meaning of GIS - A geographic information system that creates, manages maps and data. Urban Air Space – property over railway bridges or over network rail land, commercial space with residential above that space.
Councillor Collins agreed that green spaces and open area spaces were a definite and had to understand what people wanted and to improve access to existing spaces.
Councillor Collins referred to brown field sites and that nothing had been indicated on where people would work or how they would commute to work. That this was an opportunity of building industrial estates which we do not seem to be doing but just piling on housing estates and not caring much about the community. Stephen Haines stated that brown field land was an important criteria and from the methodology used, and once that information was available from the Brown Field Register there would be an opportunity to look at those sites and see how they could be redeveloped to ensure houses were built in the right location so that people could live and work in those places where it would be convenient and where they would not need to use their cars and use public transport. That work would be undertaken with Thurrock officers and their wider consultancy teams that where recommendations were made would be in the most connected locations.
Councillors Collins referred to some of examples of the how best a mix of housing and industry had worked and recommended these be used as a model.
Councillor Redsell stated that Thurrock did not want high rise developments as these were not good for communities.
Councillor Kerin referred to the redesigning of town centres and that time needed to be given to assess the future of our high streets to which Stephen Haines agreed that this should not be an immediate reaction but as part of the identifying the high streets needs which would form part of the assessment going forward in terms of retail, commercial role and heritage and what the role and function of those town centres were. This would be part of the process and to also look at sites that had been vacant for a number of years, look at future proofing and this would come from expert advice from consultancies in the retail and commercial prospective.
Councillor Kerin stated that green space was an absolutely premium and going forward there had to be a blanket approach to not build on green spaces within our urban centres. That a more imaginative use of brown field had to be addressed and creating more green spaces in the urban centres. That green space should always be safe and was precious to residents as COVID had highlighted the importance of such green spaces.
Councillor Redsell requested that Members as well as officer would need to be involved as part of the engagement process.
Councillor Watson questioned the estate renewable schemes and where there had been high rises that were in a bad state could these be taken down and reconfigured for estate renewal instead of building on new foot prints. Stephen Haines stated as part of the commission would be to look at new development and would be looking for Officers to map out the regeneration projects and urged Members to highlight any areas but it was not part of this commission to look at detailed estate regeneration. Councillor Watson asked if the Council had an estate renewal programme and questioned whether this had been taken into account into the local plan. Leigh Nicholson stated this piece of work would be built on evidence base and then plans would be put forward to the planning inspectorate. There would be a need to demonstrate how the plans was deliverable and had the evidence available to support this. There would be a need to demonstrate that both green and urban areas had been looked into and that estate renewal would play a part in that but was not part of this commission. Sean Nethercott stated that one of the biggest problems with state renewal was the decanting of people. To allow you to remodel or redevelop you would then need land to replace the housing lost and there were constraints in terms of brown field sites. That when looking at green belt this may have some benefits for example the Flowers Estate, where land around the estate may come forward for development which would enable you to move some people off to re-provide them with better quality housing and then look at remodelling the estate for those people who wished to remain and that this approach needed to happen across the borough and would form part of the bigger regeneration development approach. That in respect of assets the Council owned and had to look at how those sites could be used to help deliver on priorities and how town centres could be used to make them relevant to the town’s communities.
Councillor Anderson raised a point on parking and the effect on local businesses that if you increase residential properties in and around town centres the effects of this in 10 years’ time if residents are not using public transport may mean that residents would start to park in town centre car parks and would have a real impact on local trade and local businesses. Councillor Anderson acknowledged that the town centres study was in its early stages but noted that he would not want to see any new developments without sufficient parking as this may, further down the line, have a real impact and a negative consequence on small businesses. Stephen Haines agreed that the last thing we wanted to do was to take parking away from those businesses and absolutely mindful of that and to plan intelligently on parking for residential areas. Members all agreed that people liked to have a car and could not see that in five to ten years’ time people would rather jump on a tram or a bus. Councillor Redsell stated that Thurrock was not like London.
Councillor Redsell stated there was no mention of the use of river and river taxis and that would take a lot of people off the road including freight and needed to get to that stage swiftly to ensure people had the opportunity to use the river. Stephen Haines stated we had to get the systems and infrastructure in place that would give future generations the choice on what mode of transport they used to commute to work or socially. That the importance of having a car was still being recognised and this was the opportunity to put those infrastructures in place.
Councillor Redsell reiterated that it was vital the infrastructure was put in place first before any more building as it was the poor infrastructure that closed Thurrock down due to the traffic gridlocks. Stephen Haines stated these were the challenges of the local plan and it was incumbent of them to show what the infrastructure plan would be to put this in place otherwise it would not be deliverable, the challenge to show what infrastructure was needed and how that would support the growth.