February 27, 2021|34 Minutes

Rochford Pre-Application Webinar recording and Q&A for New Freight House and South Street engagement session.

Thank you to everyone who attended the engagement webinar for New Freight House and South Street on Wednesday 24th March. Over 50 people attended the session, and we are grateful for the feedback and engagement.

The Voyage Partnership will use and reflect on this feedback from the community to ensure that the designs best reflect the future needs of the people that will use or live in the buildings.

The full recording of the webinar will be available in due course via the Rochford District Council YouTube page and via a link from the www.voyage-partnership.co.uk website.

The questions asked during the webinar are available at the bottom of this news story.

To find out more about the sites and the engagement activity, including a link to the online surveys, visit: https://www.voyage-partnership.co.uk/have-your-say/

Engagement surveys for the Mill Arts & Events Centre and the Civic Suite  sites in Rayleigh will both open on 15th March 2021 with a webinar running on Wednesday 17th March.

Questions and Answers from the New Freight House and South Street Webinar

Question Answer
Until the first lockdown I attended a weekly yoga session in the Freight House. I understand there is no plans for the resumption of classes there irrespective of changes in lockdown arrangements. Why can classes no longer run there? As part of the council’s response to providing a leisure service under COVID-19 secure conditions it has not been possible to keep the Freight House open. We are disappointed by that but once the refurbishment is complete in the Winter of 2022, then you will be able to use the space as before and it will be better equipped for your needs.

 

We looked at reopening during the Summer of 2021 and we have taken the decision that it would not make sense from a financial or practical project planning perspective to reopen for a short time during the summer. We appreciate that is some time away, however, so we are liaising with user groups to keep them updated as part of our stakeholder engagement. If you think your class organiser has been missed off our invitation list, please do let us know and we will be pleased to invite them.

 

The development plans were obviously developed prior to the global pandemic. How have the council addressed / modified their plans in the impending post pandemic world? We have high streets full of empty spaces – surely there are spaces available on the high street where the required council office accommodation could be located? COVID 19 has certainly changed our world but the changes we have seen in terms of reduced office space and better community spaces are, we think already reflected in our programme, we have planned for 7 desks for every 10 employees for example, although of course we continue to learn lessons.

The Asset Delivery Programme was developed in response to the RDC’s Asset Strategy 2018-2028. Options reviewed during 2019 identified a preferred option which could broadly achieve cost neutrality across all 6 sites, but members decided to go further and to create a brand-new community centre in Rayleigh. It was important to the Council to maintain its presence in Rochford town where it is a significant employer and moving the civic chamber to Rochford means that we can refurbish a heritage site in the Freight House which secures its future legacy for the whole district. The new community centre will have accommodation for council officers and members to meet with Rayleigh residents as well as providing a not-for-profit hireable space which will be owned and is intended to be operated by the council.

 

Hello.  As a member of an organisation that hires the Great Eastern room at the Freight House will that room remain at the same size following the redevelopment. There are no dimensions on the plans on the website so it is very difficult to know what the useable public space will be. Thank you. We anticipate that all three hireable rooms will be to the same size as they are now and upgraded to provide an improved standard of accommodation. Design development is still underway however and more detailed plans will be available via the Planning Submission in May 2021.
When are actual plans, with dimensions going to be available? It is very hard to comment on plans when they are not available to view. We anticipate all of three hireable rooms will be to the same size as they are now and upgraded to provide an improved standard of accommodation. However, we are still in the design development stage. More detailed plans will be available via the Planning Submission in May 2021.

 

Have any considerations been made for additional green measures such as the installation of solar panels on new/re -developments? We are undertaking a comprehensive review on a site-by-site basis. Every site will have sustainable features.  Residential sites will be heated with Air Source Heat Pumps and be provided with solar panels as appropriate.  Community assets will also have sustainable heating and ventilation with solar panels and additional features such as secure bike storage to encourage sustainable travel and electric vehicle charging points.

 

Are the community / stakeholders going to actually asked what they want, as opposed to what RDC want There is an opportunity to feed comments back via the Stakeholder Focus Groups and the survey which is live on the www.voyage-partnership.co.uk/have-your-say This is the opportunity for the public not just to comment on the proposals but to put forward suggestions about what they would like to see.  The solution put forward is the councils preferred solution but a decision has not yet been made and so we remain open to meaningful contributions.

 

Is it appropriate to be building new office space when so many people now, and will continue to, work from home? The council office accommodation has been planned to accommodate working arrangements with a reduced number of workstations and hot desking arrangements. We have planned for 7 desks for every 10 employees for example.

 

This reduced office space will allow for flexible and agile working with a new welcoming area where our customers can access our services.

Is it unreasonable to pause and consider suitability of some, or all, of the redevelopment plans are appropriate post COVID? The council does not consider a pause is necessary but does keep the entire programme under constant review for COVID and any other external influence.  COVID has reinforced the council view that present premises are unsuitable for a variety of reasons and that the council must see its way to releasing value from its surplus sites.
I would like to know more about what specific car charging facilities are planned, it’s no use having non-rapid chargers at locations where people may only be for short periods of time for example – especially given the lack of local infrastructure, and who the proposed vendor would be to ensure that pricing for use is reasonable, no membership requirements, etc. The council recognises the increasing demand to be providing electric vehicle charging points.  EV charging points will be provided at all residential sites.  They will also be provided at Freight House and at the Mill Community Centre.  The other points are all noted and will be included in the criteria for selection of the eventual provider.

 

Electric vehicle points in residential developments would be subject to tariffs from individual energy providers.

Why have the council not looked after these buildings so that now this project has to happen? This is not about neglect of buildings as the council has kept up its repairs and maintenance schedule. It is simply that these buildings are very old, and the modern expectations of how civic buildings should operate is very difficult and expensive to achieve as things like mechanical and electrical technology and appliances come to end of life or retro-fitting of digital technology and it makes it very challenging to “go green”.
I would like to know more about what specific car charging facilities are planned, it’s no use having non-rapid chargers at locations where people may only be for short periods of time for example – especially given the lack of local infrastructure, and who the proposed vendor would be to ensure that pricing for use is reasonable, no membership requirements, etc. The council recognises the increasing demand to be providing electric vehicle charging points.  EV charging points will be provided at all residential sites.  They will also be provided at Freight House and at the Mill Community Centre.  The other points are all noted and will be included in the criteria for selection of the eventual provider.
How long will the build take and how long will the freight house not be fit to use by local community groups and current organisations that use it at present The Freight House is currently closed due to COVID-19 restrictions, the build period will be approximated 12 months from the winter of 2021, therefore the current programme indicates that Freight House will be out of action until winter 2022.

 

We looked at reopening during the Summer of 2021 and we have taken the decision that it would not make sense from a financial or practical project planning perspective to reopen for a short time during the summer. We appreciate that is some time away, however, so we are liaising with user groups to keep them updated as part of our stakeholder engagement. If you think your class organiser has been missed off our invitation list, please do let us know and we will be pleased to invite them.

 

The plans for the Freight House extension are impressive. However, is this the right place to centre RDCs offices? The population of Rochford is roughly 8,500, Rayleigh has a population of more than 32,000. Doesn’t it make more practical and financial sense to move the council offices to top floor of the Mill Hall (and extending the building to the side if needed). This would then allow the Mill to be modernised after decades of neglect – plus avoid the expense of constructing two new buildings. It was important to the council to maintain its presence in Rochford town where it is a significant employer and moving the civic chamber to Rochford means that we can refurbish a heritage site in the Freight House which secures its future legacy for the whole district.

 

The new Mill Community centre will have accommodation for council officers and members to meet with Rayleigh residents as well as providing a not-for-profit hireable space which will be owned and is intended to be operated by the council. The Asset Delivery Programme was developed in response to the RDC’s Asset Strategy 2018-2028. Options were explored during 2019 and the Mill Arts & Entertainment centre is considered to be a building beyond its useful life without considerable funds being spent on it.  A preferred option was identified which could broadly achieve cost neutrality across all 6 sites, but members decided to increase the scheme to create a brand-new community centre in Rayleigh.

Will there be electric car charging points in all locations Electric Vehicle charging points will be provided at the Freight House site. The exact specification of these is not known at this stage.

 

Electric vehicle points in residential developments would be subject to tariffs from individual energy providers.

Car parking is sometimes difficult due to commuter parking. Will the same number of parking spaces remain around the immediate vicinity of the Freight House? There will be some loss of car park spaces because of the new building there are 134 spaces currently and there will be approximately 88 in the future.  A loss of around 46 spaces. We believe that there is capacity in Back Lane car park which will compensate for that loss as well as new agile working arrangements which will result in reduced pressure on car parking from staff.
The Freight house presently has very poor acoustics how will this issue be addressed? An expert acoustician is being brought in to inform the refurbishment.
Will you still be able to host the beer festival that rented the whole of the freight house over a whole week. Yes, we will be able to accommodate this and the current accommodation will be upgraded.
What is your definition of Spring 2021? You are stating nothing fixed yet aim to submit planning in Spring? We refer to Spring or quarter 2, because we have no fixed dates – we are engaging with the public at this time and so need to ensure that we have sufficient flexibility in our timetable to be able to respond and adapt our designs if required as part of this engagement process.
Will the Freight house be open when the extension is being built? Freight House will not be open during the extensions works. This is because building sites and access to them are notoriously dangerous places, confusing areas that are open or closed will potentially be dangerous. Also if we were to develop a construction programme to build the New Freight House in two phases it would be longer and hence will be more expensive.

 

We looked at reopening during the Summer of 2021 and we have taken the decision that it would not make sense from a financial or practical project planning perspective to reopen for a short time during the summer. We appreciate that is some time away, however, so we are liaising with user groups to keep them updated as part of our stakeholder engagement. If you think your class organiser has been missed off our invitation list, please do let us know and we will be pleased to invite them.

 

What changes have been made to your plans as a result of fewer people using offices as working from home is a result of COVID 19? COVID 19 has certainly changed our world but the changes we have seen in terms of reduced office space and better community spaces are, we think already reflected in our programme – we have planned for 7 desks for every 10 employees for example, although of course we continue to learn lessons.
How long will the Freight House be closed for refurbishment and do you expect an impact on users finding alternative venues? The Freight House is currently closed due to COVID-19 restrictions, the build period will be approximated 12 months from the winter of 2021, therefore the current programme indicates that Freight House will be out of action until winter 2022.

 

We looked at reopening during the Summer of 2021 and we have taken the decision that it would not make sense from a financial or practical project planning perspective to reopen for a short time during the summer. We appreciate that is some time away, however, so we are liaising with user groups to keep them updated as part of our stakeholder engagement. If you think your class organiser has been missed off our invitation list, please do let us know and we will be pleased to invite them.

 

We appreciate that is some time away, however, so we are liaising with user groups to keep them updated as part of our Stakeholder Forum. If you think your class organiser has been missed off our invitation list, please do let us know and we will be pleased to invite them.

 

Several people have advised me that they tried to get through to this webinar without success. Please could you make access to future webinars more user friendly Thanks for letting us know, we will investigate this, there are over 55 people in attendance today. We will be contacting everyone who registered for the event to try & resolve the issue and a video recording of the session will be made available via the council and Voyage Partnership websites shortly.
What changes are being made to the other meeting rooms at the Freight House e.g. the room with a mezzanine floor? All three hireable rooms will be the same size as they are now and upgraded to provide an improved standard of accommodation.  We are still in the design development stage. More detailed plans will be available via the Planning Submission in May 2021.
Will the Freight House have its own parking separate from the railway parking. Yes, Freight House will have its own car parking.
Will you be reaching out to the owners of the former Police station to ensure a full regeneration scheme? The programme relates only to properties within the council’s ownership, but we are always happy to discuss regeneration schemes with local property owners.
If you are providing the trunking for E vehicles, which is usually the most costly part of the provision for electrical charging- would it not be prudent to complete the provision with functional points for the future requirements? The limiting factor is the supply of electricity from further upstream and currently this would be insufficient to supply all parking bays.  In addition, it is currently the case that house-owners can access grant funds that developers cannot, hence we would be incurring additional costs for no benefits.
Can I have an answer to the definition of Spring? If nothing is set in stone, why is there absolutely no time between closure of consultation and submission of planning?

 

This seems to be a done deal!

Our programme is high level at this stage which is why we talk about “spring” – it allows us to flex to reflect outcomes of this engagement. It is absolutely not a done deal. Planning will be subject to separate public consultation in due course and the council has yet to make its final decision on the programme.
Would love to know some more specifics about proposed vendors and pricing to use for residents for residential charging and for patrons with regard to facilities at the freight house (appreciate this may not be known yet). Electric Vehicle charging points will be provided at the Freight House site. The exact specification of these is not known at this stage.

 

Electric vehicle points in residential developments would be subject to tariffs from individual energy providers.

There is great concern by residents of Rayleigh regarding the scheme, thousands of people do not want to lose Mill Hall and the Civic Suite with Council Chamber. They do not accept the new facility in any way adequate. Neither do they want flats built within the Rayleigh Conservation Area. They are calling on the Council to have a proper public consultation on the whole issue. Residents do not consider this webinar and ‘engagement’ to be a satisfactory consultation. We note these concerns and are listening to feedback from across the community We are focusing on the Rochford schemes today. We will be holding a 6 week Pre-App engagement period for the Rayleigh schemes and we will be holding a similar webinar to this evening on 17th March, there will also be a survey and further information shared via the www.voyage-partnership.co.uk/have-your-say page. If there is anything more that we can do to engage then please let us know what you would like to see.
All new developments are an opportunity to expand charging facilities so it’s great to see that it was considered from the outset. Thank you.
No 57 is a building with character.  The proposed replacement building is not. – it looks like so many other rather bland new builds.  Why can the new building not reflect the current building more?  And where is the outside sitting area for the poor flat dwellers to use?  This should be included as well as parking spaces. We agree that number 57 has character, and we are keen to reflect this in the new build proposals.  The current design proposals are indicative at this stage and we will consider your suggestion that the new build should more strongly reflect the character of the existing building.

Where possible, external amenity space will be provided to the new residential apartments either through a shared ground floor garden areas or balconies to the upper floor apartments.  We are conscious of the need to preserve the privacy and amenity of neighbouring properties and therefore this will also be considered as the proposals develop.

With only 50 people attending this webinar how will the council involve more residents in these plans. The webinar is just one way that we are engaging with residents on these plans. Our website provides more details (https://www.voyage-partnership.co.uk/have-your-say/) including a link to engagement surveys, which have already received many responses and we welcome more.

A recording of the webinar will also be made  available to those not able to join us.

Are these going forward as questions to the panel? Yes, they are working through them and any we don’t have time for we will respond direct and via the Voyage website.
Regarding Rochford a lot of people are concerned about easy access for the public, currently in Rochford Town centre to an area close to Railway station away from the centre. Access for the public will be vastly improved from the current arrangements. The distance between South Street and Freight House is a short walk and the new location is in a very sustainable and accessible location for the whole District with access via trains, buses, cars.
Why haven’t you answered any of my questions, but you have answered all others? Apologies we have had a lot to get through, but we will be responding to all questions posed and they will be available for everyone to see on the www.voyage-partnership.co.uk website.
Will the Great Eastern Room be open during redevelopment? The Great Eastern Room and the whole of Freight House is currently closed due to COVID-19 restrictions, the build period will be approximated 12 months from the winter of 2021, therefore the current programme indicates that Freight House will be out of action until winter 2022.

 

Would it not be possible to put details of these developments within the Council Tax bills due shortly? The form of Council Tax bills is prescribed by law and we didn’t want to enclose a lot of additional information in the envelope because it costs a lot to print. We are looking at informing people in other ways.
What is the council doing to involve older residents in this public engagement? It seems many are being excluded as either they do not have access to technology/or technical assistance from relatives/friends due to Covid restrictions. Since they are a major user of council services how will the council address this? We are conscious that not everyone uses digital technology and we have tried to engage with all parties. We have undertaken a Poster campaign and there is an opportunity to write to us via the council at South Street, and we will post hard copies of the information out and the feedback questionnaires can be completed by hand and sent by post to us.
Lots of my questions not answered We hope we have now answered all of your questions. If not please do get in touch with us for further discussion.
Why is it necessary to build on a flood zone at 57 South Street?

 

57 South Street is in Flood Zone 3, which means it is at risk of flooding. The existing building is in poor condition and options to convert and restore the building are compromised by the risk of flooding.

 

The council objective is to redevelop the site for much needed housing. Demolition and redevelopment of the site will allow these flood risks to be overcome, by elevating the ground floor level and keeping the building footprint as small as possible a high-quality replacement will be provided.

Will the residents of the flats at 3-15 South Street have any outside garden and amenity space?

 

Our plans include the removal of poor quality modern late 20th century additions to the site, this will allow more space for resident and visitor parking and private and shared amenity garden spaces and refuse and bike storage areas.