2017 Year End Report…

Hamlet Court Conservation Forum – Seasonal Update

So much seems to have happened since the Forum was first put together. Our purpose is to protect the Hamlet Court area with Conservation Area designation and to promote heritage led regeneration in Hamlet Court Road itself. Designation would define the area and give a completely new local management plan to help residents and traders. Designation would also allow access to heritage funding that could help regeneration and conservation repair over time.

In July we presented our comprehensive Statement of Case document to the Council and this included our offer to undertake most of the work involved, the Conservation Area Appraisal – this is a comprehensive piece of research, historical description and proposed management plan for the area. In other words this work would be done at no charge to the Council! This would then be considered by officers and Council Members.

After this initial work the following events have unfolded:

  • In September we gave a Powerpoint presentation to the Council Conservation Working Party which went incredibly well. We received very warm support from the other conservation groups present but most notably from Councillors Flewitt, Ware-Lane, Mulroney, Ayling and Arscott. We got agreement that our proposition should go forward to Council Cabinet
  • In early October we carried out a door knocking membership drive and had the pleasure of meeting many of local residents. This proved to be very successful and grew our membership. We also met many very receptive and interested people who want to help to improve the local area
  • In mid October we had a very productive meeting with ENS, probably the largest employer in Hamlet Court Road with some 70 staff – who knew that! They have joined the Forum and wish to help in any way they can. We discussed one of the amenity projects we want to roll out concerning refuse collection, which numerous people have raised as an issue. Initially we are going to pilot the area between lower Preston Road and Hamlet Court Road
  • In early November Council Cabinet met and again our request for conservation designation was apparently well received with a determination that a formal report from officers was commissioned. This was a double edged outcome as support is very good but further reporting simply delays everything. We are now told that we can expect to hear further in January
  • In mid-November we met with other local conservationists to resurrect the Southend Conservation Forum, a former, borough wide conservation group which will now co-ordinate online via Facebook and, as needed, with local meetings. This will help share conservation problems and thinking so that issues get better presented to the Council at Conservation Working Party Meetings
  • In late November we met Kwesi and Maya from The Cultural Assembly, a group that has worked in London and Suffolk. They have an alternative approach to regeneration whereby impetus comes directly from the community through the arts & culture. This is a bottom up approach that involves community events, the re-purposing of redundant buildings and working with various other parties such as The Cultural Engine. They are very keen to collaborate in Hamlet Court Road
  • In early December we had a meeting with Carol Edwards who has written several local history books and is preparing to publish a new book on Hamlet Court Road in the New Year.  Carol kindly offered us the opportunity of writing a suffix piece about our work in this book. It was a fascinating meeting where Carol’s social history met our environmental history and it is clear that we will learn a lot from Carol. But we also would hope to supplement her work with our research, when we get the green light from the Council
  • Throughout the last few months we have also been following a new programme at the Royal Society of Arts called Networked Heritage which you can read about a www.rsa.org. This is looking at ways that people identify and connect with their local heritage and this could both inform our work and assist building and re-engaging the local community. This also ties in with work that we have identified by UNESCO where all heritage attributes of a local area (not just buildings) are included in managing the sustainable heritage of a local community. This could be a very interesting area for our work and formed part of our Statement of Case, referred to above

So you can see that a lot is happening and I must give a big thanks to our Committee but particularly Charlotte Kurilecz and Andrew Zoers, our secretary and treasurer who have helped make this happen. Particular thanks also to Richard Kurti for his enthusiasm and support.

And plans for next year include an invitation to anyone turn up at our meetings at the start of the evening and ask a question or raise an issue – it is after all a Forum for the community! But we also hope to organise a public event in Hamlet Court Road for the warmer weather. Details to follow next year.

I hope you can see that something special is beginning to happen here but what we need now is as much support as possible through both Forum membership and regeneration support – both types of support can be registered on our website www.hamletcourt.org.  Please spread the word and encourage others to sign up. But please also add your comments to our website or Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/groups/HamletCourt/ or follow us on Twitter @hamlet_court

Andy Atkinson – Acting Chairman