Well our beautiful building has been Grade 2 listed and I am not sure if it is good news or not! Yes the building has architectural merit but it was designed and re built in 1935 in an era pre cars, pre shopping centre and pre internet.
Much has changed in the intervening years and most importantly is the way that people shop. To meet those changes so has Havens the business. Now 70% of our business is done either on line or through our business to business company.
Change is in our DNA inbred in me by my father and as we say in business “Doing nothing is not an option”
My fear about the listing is that it will make the further developments and changes we have to make as a business more challenging and costly as there is an additional layer of bureaucracy.
I am assured that the building is not set in aspic and that the commercial use of the building is a consideration, I just hope that is the case as anything that stifles and frustrates business development is counter productive.
Fortunately there are already precedents for change in Hamlet Court Road which any planner would need to take into consideration.
As a retailer all my life I know that High Street UK is broken and radical changes need to take place particularly in small towns and secondary retail locations.
Their regeneration will involve a new mix of urban dwelling, services, leisure and small specialist shops. You can add to that street markets/food markets, which from experience I know are hard to organise because of stifling council red tape.
To achieve the above we all need a local authority that is progressive and wants to facilitate that regeneration. This will include, change of use, permitted planning guidelines, public realm up dates, and a can do attitude.
I am hopeful that Southend Council are one of those authority’s and evidence to date would suggest they are pro regeneration.
If that is the case then Grade 2 listing for the building is a joy rather than a burden.