Posted: 11.05.20 at 19:18 by The Editor
RESIDENTS of Stanford-le-Hope have been promised the reinvigoration of the town centre as Thurrock Council claws its way out of the botched rebuild of the local rail station.
The long-drawn out saga of the station goes back several years. It was originally planned under a Labour administration as a joint venture between Thurrock Council, rail provider c2c, Network Rail and DP World London Gateway which committed cash to the council as part of its original planning permission for the port.
In March 2016 Labour councillor Oliver Gerrish, then in charge of transport, said: “It is important to provide improved access to over 12,000 jobs at London Gateway and the Thames Enterprise Park, as well as improved facilities for local people.”
It wasn’t until three years later and after a change to a Conservative administration that work started. In March last year contractors moved in and demolished most of the existing 1960s station buildings, working to a blueprint drawn up which allowed for a turning circle, a new station building and a new bridge.
Unfortunately it turned out to be seriously flawed and work ground to a halt in June last year when it became clear the whole design project had been botched.
A veil of silence was put on the project by the council. Officers refused to go into details of what had gone wrong, though regeneration portfolio holder Cllr Mark Coxshall went on the record to try and explain things.
He said: “We are currently addressing the condition of the existing road bridge and awaiting a report that will inform the full extent of works required. This has resulted in a pause in work on site, but we are working hard to ensure we can proceed again as soon as possible. In the meantime, vital work off site continues.”
A year later he is able to pick up the threads of the project after the Council entered into an agreement with the owners of the adjacent Daybreak Windows site. No purchase price has been disclosed but Thurrock Nub News understands it is approaching £1.5 million more than the council might have paid when they were offered the site several years. The council declined, saying it wasn’t needed!
Today (Monday, 11 May), Cllr Coxshall confirmed that the station improvements are a step closer with the purchase the Daybreak site.
He said: “This land provides an exciting opportunity to further improve the quality of the scheme and provide even more community benefits. Plans will increase accessibility to the station, provide higher quality public space than initially thought possible and deliver station facilities to enable our communities to be better connected as well as commuters to enjoy.
“Our ambitious regeneration proposals will set the tone for future high quality development across the borough, invigorate Stanford’s town centre and encourage more people to use local businesses.”
“The major redevelopment project will create a modern transport hub with space for buses, cyclists and vehicle drop-offs. Works will help ease congestion within the local area and improved parking will support the local high street.”
Today’s news has been welcomed by ward councillors Shane Hebb and Terry Piccolo. Cllr Piccolo first mentioned the adjacent land in a Thurrock Nub News story earlier this year.
The two councillors have issued a joint statement to Thurrock Nub News which says: “We welcome this news for a number of reasons.
“Firstly, it means the Stanford c2c station project can move forward again - how soon will be dependant on social-distancing working practices being in place, and we will work with Thurrock Council to understand that timetable fully. Delivering a new, more fit-for-purpose train station upgrade is something we think that everyone believes in - and we are glad we move closer to that idea being realised.
“The other benefits of the revised scheme are also significant for local residents, and ones we have worked to achieve for some time.
“By not building over the brook, but retaining the design element to enable commercial bus-turnarounds to happen off the main road is welcome, will aid in de-bottlenecking an area prone to congestion.
“The element which is new, and only possible by purchasing this land, is the extra commuter car-parking spaces that are anticipated from the revised scheme.
"Extra parking spaces for commuters will help reduce roadside parking issues around the Stanford-le-Hope area - and it goes part way to remedying the former Thurrock Council Labour administration’s Sand Pits car park sell-off all those years ago - by freeing up more spaces in the town to enable easier shopping at the town centre, where many small businesses operate, and who depend on people travelling from all over the east of the borough to make use of their shops and services.”
While the debacle unfolded in January, some people using the station car park were issued with fines as it became increasingly uncertain and confusion as to what was happening. However, after intervention by Thurrock Nub News, that issue was resolved in February.
No timescale has been given for when work will start on developing the Daybreak site. Its owners are currently investigating relocation plans as they aim to continue the business.