Plans have now been formally submitted for Southend’s Elmer Square scheme – marking the next milestone in its innovative development.
The proposals on the site of the former Farringdon Car Park are for an integrated municipal and academic public library, alongside a stimulating research and learning environment for the University and a modern teaching facility for South Essex College of Further and Higher Education.
The library’s main reading area would be more than 40 per cent larger than in the existing library. More than 1,300 linear metres of additional books would be available for public access as a result of the collaboration with the College and University, and there would be 106 computer terminals, including eight quick access terminals on the ground floor. The whole building would be WiFi enabled, allowing people to connect to services using their own laptops or handheld devices.
It would be set within a new public square, and also form a new home for the Focal Point Gallery and a new café. A 6.22m x 3.5m LED display screen would be located at the northern end of the new square for the showing of major national cultural and sporting events, local and community events and other artistic purposes and ceremonies.
It will be funded jointly by the Council (£12.5m), the University (£10.4m) and the College (£4m), and the plans are set to be considered by Southend-on-Sea Borough Council’s cross-party Development Control Committee on Wednesday 17 August.
At the same time the tendering process has also just been launched to find the construction firm to build the development. The deadline for expressions of interest will be mid-July, and from then a shortlist will be drawn up, for companies to submit full tender documents. It is expected that the winning contractor will be appointed in February 2012 and the scheme is due to be completed in autumn 2013. Architects ADP successfully won the contract to design the new building.
Southend-on-Sea Borough Council’s Executive Councillor for Culture and Tourism, Councillor Derek Jarvis said: “The submission of the planning application is a major landmark towards this exciting new development. At a public consultation about it there was overwhelming support for the scheme, as well as some very positive suggestions.
“We have taken people’s comments into consideration and as a result have included more soft landscaping into the plans, as well as incorporating lighting and other means to more clearly define each end of the building.”
Registrar and Secretary of the University, Dr Tony Rich, said: “This is an innovative development which will enable the University to provide the best possible learning facilities for its growing number of students in Southend. We believe it will also provide accessible modern facilities for the local community, with students and members of the public benefiting from the high quality new shared library.”
Jan Hodges, Principal and Chief Executive of South Essex College said: “It’s fantastic to see this joint project progress to the next stage and is a great testament to all the partners involved. The College, University and Council have all helped change the shape of Southend and open up new opportunities to its residents and attract new residents alike. This combined academic and public library will further enhance that offer from the town and support the needs of all students and the wider community.”