SEALIFE Adventure has been told to redesign a planned large-scale extension to the Southend seafront attraction.
Southend Council has told owner the Stockvale Group it won’t allow a building resembling a warehouse right opposite some of the seafront’s oldest buildings.
The company applied for permission to almost double the size of the Eastern Esplanade sealife centre, to house penguins, crocodiles, otters and seals.
The proposals sparked protests from the owners of mid-19th century fishermen’s cottages opposite, who complained the building would ruin the conservation area in which their homes stand.
Councillors stopped short of refusing the application, instead postponing a decision so planners and Stockvale’s architects can discuss a revised design.
Stockvale’s other ambitious plans – for a £1million artificial lagoon at Three Shells Beach and a new indoor play area at its Adventure Island fun park – have been given the green light.
The planned sealife centre extension would have been clad in a hi-tech “rainbow” finish, reflecting different colours, depending on the viewing angle.
Stephen Habermel, Tory councillor for Chalkwell, told the planning committee meeting: “I feel this material will have a detrimental effect when facing the conservation area. I think they will face out onto a wall of multicoloured cladding.”
Earlier, objector Dennis Whitmore, who lives in one of the cottages, had said: “The proposed development would be like five double-decker buses parked end to end, from the viewof the cottages.
“The view from our windows will be like looking at the side of an industrial building.”
Brian Ayling, Independent councillor for St Luke’s, said he had great respect for Stockvale owner Philip Miller and what he had done for the town town, but added: “The design is absolutely disgraceful and I don’t want to see it on the seafront.”
The 14,500sq ft extension would have been built on the site of an unofficial staff car park and a former crazy golf course to the east of the attraction.
Part of it would have enclosed a large fish tank and new enclosures for meerkats and crocodiles.
The application also included new open-air seal and penguin pools, seating, a children’s play area and an exhibition space.
Sealife Adventure’s application suggested the extension would allow it to offer a rescue and rehabilitation centre for wounded seals, and a breeding programme and help Essex University run degree courses on marine life.
Steven Kearney, of project designer SK Architects, told the committee: “One of the important issues of the Eastern Esplanade Conservation Area is the view of the terrace from the seawall and promenade, which helps to retain the historic link to the seashore.
“The proposal does not impact on the views of the terrace from the sea and has preserved the importance of this setting by framing the southerly view.”
LAGOON AND PLAY AREA APPROVED
PLANS for an artificial lagoon and a large indoor play area on the seafront have both been given the go-ahead.
The planning committee approved plans for the tree-lined £1million tidal pool at Three Shells Beach. It also agreed to allow 43fthigh building to housing an indoor play area on a site by the pier entrance previously occupied by the Blackbeard Pirate Ship ride.
Both are owned by seafront entrepreneur Philip Miller’s Stockvale Group.
Ron Woodley, Independent councillor for Thorpe, said: “We know the seafront is a very important location to our economy and our local job situation.
Anything this company does seems to improve the situation.”
The 200ft by 125ft lagoon will be created by building a 400ft-long steel, rock and boulder wall along the foreshore. It would be funded by £850,000 of Government money, with Stockvale paying £100,000.
The 14,700sq foot play area at Adventure Island will house fairground rides, a parents’ enclosure and food vendors.
LAGOON COULD CLOSE YACHT CLUB
YACHTSMEN have warned the Three Shells Beach lagoon could force their 141-year-old sailing club to close.
The Alexandra Yacht Club, the fifth oldest in the country and the ninth oldest in the world, claims the lagoon’s wall will stop boats getting to and from its neighbouring slipway.
Membership secretary Frank Haysom said: “Unless we can get more movement and mitigation of many of the dangers we are foreseeing, I think it will mean the closure of the club. We won’t have enough sailors to warrant a club being there.”
The Stockvale Group offered to move the wall enclosing the lagoon 50ft further from the club jetty in response to objections from the club and 60 local Sea Scouts, who launch boats from the club.
However, the club says even if it is moved, the wall will still affect its ability to sail from the slip at some tides.
Member Richard Lockwood said: “I’m very disappointed with the decision.”