Scepticism over council's plans for urban regeneration in borough villages and Lakeside

  Posted: 21.07.21 at 22:28 by Christine Sexton - Local Democracy Reporting Service - and Neil Speight

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PLANS to expand villages in Thurrock into smaller towns appear to be on the radar of Thurrock Council as it shapes its new local plan - and an earlier scheme to turn the Lakeside regional shopping entre into a 'town' may also be revived.

In 2018 various schemes were advanced to make Lakeside the new centre-piece of housing development. Among was a plan that ended up winning tacit approval from planning for converting shops including the centre's Debenhams store into residential areas.

Almost three years on., little has come to fruition but the stagnant Thurrock local plan now appears to be beginning to move again and consultants David Lock Associates are looking at how areas in Thurrock can be utilised as part of the borough’s local plan, which will provide new homes, a changing retail scene and employment over the next decade.

These will include Grays and Tilbury but also villages like Horndon on the Hill, Fobbing and Bulphan.

The potential for Lakeside to be transformed into a mix of residential and retail to become a town centre with green methods of transport like cycling and waking will be explored.

Plans for 1,000 new homes at Intu Lakeside were announced in 2019 when tough trading conditions led the firm to consider mixed uses for its sites, but the plans were not taken forward.

Speaking at a meeting of Thurrock Council’s local development plan task force on Monday (19 July), Stephen Haines from consultants David Lock - who in the past 12 months have been paid more than £15,000 for their services, said his firm would be engaging with landowners to explore future potential.

He said: “Back in 2015 we started to look at the Lakeside Basin how the potential for that area might change over time in terms of how that could become more the town centre and more of a mixed use location not just predicated on leisure and retail.

“Maybe looking at transport so it’s not always car dominated and how can we improve public transport, walking and cycling to these locations.

“We’ll start to look at that as part of refreshing the whole approach to the town centres and Lakeside being a critical and one of the larger areas in terms of its town centre function providing retail and leisure. How can we look at that in a different light, looking at bringing in more residential with different employment opportunities as well?”

But the idea that cars will not play that big a role in future housing development, particularly areas like Lakeside, was mocked by Conservative councillor Joy Redsell, who said: "However much we want to get cars off the road, it isn’t going to happen. I think most people who go to Lakeside are not going to go there to do their shopping and get on a bus and come home.

“If there is ever an accident anywhere it closes Lakeside down altogether. Not many people are going to cycle to Lakeside.”

Councillors were also worried about the threat to green belt and green open spaces in the borough as well adequate infrastructure being put in place before more homes were built.

Labour's Cllr Lee Watson was particularly concerned and said: “If anything happens on the M25 or anything in Thurrock we are at an absolute standstill in Purfleet and everywhere.

“I’m completely for green energy and clean energy but people will always have two cars near enough per household.

“The areas you’re looking at around Aveley and Orsett were not really built for the amount of traffic that’s going to go through there." She questioned the merits of a scheme that proposed urban regeneration as an extension of existing villages.

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