Thanks to all those who supported our recent ‘Hamlet Court Calling’ event. With the help of The Haven Community Hub and 12 local traders we displayed around 60 Edwardian photographs in Hamlet Court Road. This created a great deal on interest in the history of our local area with a good deal of wonderful feedback reaching us. Many of you took advantage of the opportunity to purchase a photograph or two and we have been asked about the future availability of smaller copies which are now considering. More news on this will follow.
We also had a very interesting talk at the Hub by local historian Ian Yearsley, titled ‘Westcliff-on-Sea: A Century of Change 1921-2021’.
Our thanks go out to the participant business as follows:
The possible conservation area designation of either the north end of Hamlet Court Road (HCR), south of London Road, or of a wider area including all of HCR, Preston, Ditton Court, Cossington and part of Canewdon Road is currently out to public consultation. If you live locally you may have received a letter recently from an anonymous ‘resident’ suggesting that conservation designation ‘can mean many restrictions’. This is misleading and here we’ll try to explain each of the claims.
Please note planning rules can be complicated and will depend upon the exact planning rules in place in the area. Below is only general comment and we would always advise that as it is the local authority who make the decisions they are best placed to advise on individual cases.
The first response to the claim is that the implication of living with difficulty is quite wrong. There are around 10,000 conservation areas nationally, from sophisticated urban areas to simple rural and coastal settlements, some very modest. Nowhere across these areas will you find a public outcry of injustice. Conservation areas work and are generally welcomed and supported by residents, businesses and local authorities. Yes, there are differences as to how town planning works in a conservation area but you will see that these are not restrictive.
The incorrect or misleading claims are that restrictions will generally apply to:
1 Changes to your windows Repairs to windows do not require consent. If you wish you change your windows on a like for like basis, timber replacing timber, steel replacing steel or uPVC replacing uPVC these changes are usually permissible and have consistently been agreed in next door Milton Conservation Area. Yes, you probably will need to make a planning application for alternative changes as it is common for what are called Article 4 Directions to remove permitted development rights for windows, in protecting a conservation area. Generally, uPVC windows replacing original timber windows will not receive planning consent in a conservation area. Many people would not consider this a restriction.
However, in 2005 the World Wildlife Fund published ‘Window of Opportunity’ which showed that timber windows compare far more favourably than uPVC windows when comparing life costs, length of service life, environmental harm (PVC releases poisons when incinerated) and waste. Later, in 2013, a university report found that timber windows are carbon negative (i.e. not contributing to CO² growth), last more than twice as long uPVC (60 years compared to 20-25 years – although many historical timber windows last for over 100 years due to the quality of the timber used at the time) and have lower life cycle assessment impacts than uPVC. uPVC windows are also not maintenance free, a common misconception. Whilst the purchase cost is less (hence the attraction and growth of the uPVC window market) the opposite is true in terms of life cost and environmental sustainability. Therefore, in 2021, when society is working towards a carbon neutral future, the likely refusal of planning permission for uPVC windows in a conservation area may not be considered a restriction.
In nearby Milton Conservation Area most people understand about not replacing timber windows with uPVC and this is widely accepted. This planning control is not seen as a restriction.
2 Installing solar panels Solar panels are likely to require consent and this may not be given to street facing roof slopes but are likely to be permitted for rear facing roof slopes. Given that beautiful roofs are an important part of a conservation area this is not surprising.
3 Demolishing part of the property Demolition of small parts of a property do not require consent. Consent is required if you wish to demolish a property of 115 cubic metres or more, which almost never happens in a conservation area. Consent is also required for demolition of a wall or fence more than 1m next to a highway or 2m elsewhere. This is to protect historic enclosures but consent has been given for well designed alterations to front gardens across England, including for vehicular hardstanding – as can be seen in the illustrations here.
4 Building new walls or extensions Interior changes do not require consent (except that Building Regulations may apply, as is universal). Small changes and extensions at the rear of properties do not generally need consent as is the case across the whole country, with slightly different size limits before consent is required in conservation areas. Larger extensions will need consent but some of the most modern extensions are built at the rear of properties in conservation areas. Street boundary walls are a little different and may require consent where an Article 4 Direction (see 1 and 3 above) applies.
5 Laying paving No consent is required for paving (although suitable drainage is a requirement). Planning consent is normally required for a vehicular hardstanding but this is more to do with the vehicle than the paving (see answer 3 above).
6 Cutting trees. You will need to give notice (free of charge) of works to trees but this is almost always agreed by the local authority. Trees in conservation areas need to be maintained like anywhere else and local authorities understand and support this. If you wish to completely remove a significant tree in a conservation area, usually one contributing to the character of the area, you are likely to need consent. Removing trees in back gardens is usually permitted.
A conservation area is there is protect the heritage of the past. Yes there are different controls but these are not restrictions and many forms of development are perfectly possible.
 Dr Gillian Menzies, Institute for Building and Urban Design, Herriot Watt University, June 2013, Whole Life Analysis of timber, modified timber and aluminium clad timber windows: Service Life Planning, Whole Life Costing and Life Cycle Assessment
This message put to our Borough Councillors today – 14/2/21
The Economic Case for Conservation Area Designation to all of commercial Hamlet Court Road
When I asked a question at Full Council in December about the potential for heritage led economic regeneration the Portfolio Holder correctly pointed to the law and the consideration that designation should only be in terms of architectural or historical special interest. Of course we understand this. But the economic question is huge and will be crucial to existing and future traders in the road and wider area, the residents locally and indeed the future prospects for the centre of our town. Members have quite rightly asked this question in Place Scrutiny and Full Council, without a proper answer. The answer that came back to my question referred, at paragraph 6.3.12 of the draft appraisal, to reduced vacancy as the area becomes more attractive in which to live and work and the potential for grant funding and regeneration schemes. At paragraph 6.3.13 this potential was extended to communities to take this forward.
That was it. Nothing further. No reference to any wider study nor report. This is simply grossly inadequate and certainly not what many other towns across England are doing and not matching the guidance being given by Government, institutions and many heritage and business experts.
Historic England have made the case in the last two years for the importance to the economy of heritage in their documents ‘Heritage and the Economy 2019’ and ‘…2020’. These can be seen here:
This is the front cover to the 2019 document (the cover of the 2020 document is similar). Notice that it is not of a stately home, a castle nor cathedral but of a road that could easily be Hamlet Court Road. This is because this is exactly where most heritage impacts on society, in our high streets. It is also why the Government are giving such attention to historic high streets in their High Street Heritage Action Zone programme.
The documents cite the Nobel Prize winning economist, Robert Merton Solow who said that “over the long term, places with strong, distinctive identities are more likely to prosper than places without them.
Every place must identify its strongest, most distinctive features and develop them or run the risk of being all things to all persons and nothing special to any”. It goes on to say that the historic environment can be a cornerstone of the economic and social revival of our towns and cities.
The documents are very comprehensive with significant economic benefits described as resulting from investment in heritage. Points made include:
Business in historic buildings is growing and historic places are increasingly attractive to business (+154% since 2012)
Heritage influences the location choices of business, attracting highly skilled and highly educated workers
Heritage enhances business opportunities (over 60% of business in historic building were established in last 3 years)
Heritage shapes people perceptions and authentic experience of places (81% in survey agreed that everyone should experience beauty)
Investing in the historic environment can successfully increase footfall and reduce vacancy rates
Much heritage potential is still untapped
Cumulative growth of heritage employment has outstripped the rest of the economy (+19% compared to +11%)
Heritage GVA is a growing part of the national economy, greater than that of Arts & Culture, Aerospace, Defence and Security.
Heritage creates construction jobs including new skilled positions
The Total Economic Value is greater than the sum of the parts, with cultural, social and economic benefits. Heritage is a major contributor to wellbeing.
Heritage has the ability to contribute to a new greener, circular economy
Heritage is inherently sustainable and an integral part of a low carbon economy and the UK’s carbon neutral commitments
Refurbishment and retrofitting emits less carbon than a new building. “The greenest building is one that already exists”.
Heritage regeneration leads to inclusive growth. Investing in a people centred approach to heritage – one that benefits all levels of society – could potentially help foster social inclusion.
Elsewhere we have also referred to the great market potential of the wide expanse of lower Hamlet Court Road in a brilliant document by the Institute of Place Management called ‘Markets Matter’. This can be seen here:
In short, the regeneration of all of commercial Hamlet Court Road into a new, mixed use but economy focussed live, work and play environment could not only see the complete uplifting of opportunity for all and a massive improvement to this socially deprived part of the town (2nd decile on the Indices of Deprivation) but lead the way in Southend’s own 2050 aspirations.
We want to see all of commercial Hamlet Court Road benefit from the improved building quality, improved homes and improved businesses – within the identity that is Westcliff-on-Sea.
Where Hamlet Court Road is right now is the sum of the past, especially the recent past. A past devoid of heritage attention that is now desperately needed, but where a future offers a golden opportunity. To reiterate, we know that the decision to designate the area rests lawfully on the architectural and historical special interest and how this has been assessed but the potential for heritage led economic benefit is nothing less than far reaching.
Although it says little about historic building and places with further details to follow, we have made our consultation contribution here. We decided to keep our response short to make just two main points about how we think planning should adapt to better care for the widespread historic places that affect most peoples lives and deal with frequently seen failings.
The area for conservation designation in Westcliff has now been proposed by the Leigh Councillor heading this up with officers has the top end of Hamlet Court Road only. In part this is great news and will be wonderful for Westcliff to see our rich heritage contribute to economic regeneration, hopefully with access to new funding streams. But we have been making the case for 3 years for the whole of HCR and the local residential roads to be protected and this was what 91.5% of the public said they wanted in our public survey. This area is at least equal if not greater historically and architecturally than Leigh (especially the east Broadway designated 40 years ago) and is supported by Dr Mervyn Miller who is a world authority on Garden Suburbs. The Council’s own survey failed with only 8 respondents so there is absolutely no public backing in ignoring this wider area. We will keep making the case and when this goes to Council Cabinet in November we hope our Councillors will choose to support the public and widen the potential for designation. Please keep supporting the work by taking the survey which will be closing in the coming weeks (more news to follow) here https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/K2TM3HT or post your view
Our information leaflet will be dropping through all the local doors in August (having been delayed in the spring by the Coronavirus crisis). All residents and businesses will have the opportunity to have their say in the conservation protection of the area and its contribution to local heritage led regeneration by going to our online survey here:
The possible conservation area designation of the Hamlet Court area is before you at Place Scrutiny tomorrow evening. We just wanted to drop you a quick line to express the considerable community support for designation – our group has been working on this for the last 3 years.
We want designation to help protect the wonderful history and architecture but, importantly, to help the economic regeneration of the area. This can happen as many place and retail experts in the UK now recognise and this has led to the High Street Heritage Action Zone programme, part of the Governments Future High Street Fund. Our bid to this fund for £1.8m last summer failed because the road is not yet a conservation area so designation is simply vital to access these funds, to help traders and to help mobilise the community – we are ready and waiting to help.
I attach a document which we sent to the Council recently yet cannot see that this has been reported to Members. It is rather long but the most important and, we hope, helpful content is on the first 3 pages.
We really want to see the local community given the consultation opportunity to choose if the wider area, including all of Hamlet Court Road and the wonderful neighbouring roads, should be designated. And this could be one of the most remarkable urban improvement initiatives that the Council has ever taken.
We hope for universal, cross party support.
Andy Atkinson MSc FRSA
Historical Building Consultant
For and on behalf of
Hamlet CourtConservation Forum
ps Our report includes a remarkable testament from an international expert on the significance of Ditton Court Road, the first residential verged road in the Borough by some 30 years, preceding Chalkwell, Thorpe Bay and West Leigh estates – a very special part of the town’s history that deserves protection and restoration
Southend-on-Sea Borough Council Cabinet are going to consider Conservation Area Designation on the 16th January! After two and a half years of stating the case and a considerable amount of lobbying this is a massive step forwards and incredibly significant for Hamlet Court Road and Westcliff. If approved in due course by the Council it would mean that the amazing architecture is protected and we can work to get funds into the road and generally mobilize the community, traders and the Council for the type of regeneration effort that is needed and is widely being promoted by the Government, Historic England, retail and place management experts across the land.
At last Hamlet Court Road might be able to look forward to real progress as a modern day high street with a celebrated history.
We decided that if we couldn’t get the Christmas lights back (this will happen but needs a bigger effort than at first thought) we’d help Hamlet Court Road in the best way we could with a community litter pick. If you are free for an hour or so on Saturday December 14th we will be meeting at 9.30am on the pavement outside Savers. Why not help your road in a small way this festive season?
‘Love Hamlet Court Road’ is tomorrow when Hamlet Court Conservation Forum will be in the street to talk to you about what we do and how we are working to protect HCR. It’s also a call to everyone to ‘Step In Here – Step Into Your Street’ and support the road with your presence, browsing, shopping, eating, drinking, taking that treatment or other experience. We have some great local businesses and this is your local road so please support it if you can.