Campaign response to RDC Mill Hall announcement
This week, the RDC leader Simon Wootton made a statement that the Mill Hall redevelopment would be replanned.
"Following an extensive period of engagement and reflection with members of the public, stakeholders and councillors, I am pleased to confirm that a report will be brought to a meeting of the full Council on 19th October 2021 when councillors will have the opportunity to commission a redesign of the Council’s proposed scheme for the redevelopment of the Mill Arts & Events Centre site.
Quite understandably, there was particular concern about the impact any development would have on the aesthetic value and iconic heritage of the Windmill and the Mount in the district. I share that view, and it was always very clear to me, and continues to be my unequivocal commitment, to ensure these two nationally treasured assets remain protected and enhanced by whatever eventually happens on the site.
We have also taken on board representations about the green spaces, locally important trees and concerns about residential development. In considering the future development of the site, I am committed to ensure that the Council considers alternative proposals which do not include residential development.
Turning to the Mill Hall itself, we received considerable feedback about the proposed replacement building, especially in relation to the optimum size it should be. We have not come to any view as yet, but it is imperative, whatever the eventual solution is, (whether new build or refurbishment), that it meets community needs and is also financially viable.
I am also clear that any new building must be designed and built in a way to be highly environmentally sustainable, supporting the Council’s ambition to become carbon neutral.
For these reasons, any new scheme for the Mill Hall site as a whole will be subject to a further options analysis. This will include an in-person engagement process with the public to gauge views before a final decision is made."
You can see the announcement here
The Save Mill Hall Campaign is cautiously optimistic after Cllr Wootton’s press release regarding the future of the Mill Hall site. It remains to be seen whether the site will be saved and the hall will be refurbished or demolished. No decisions have been taken however and now is not the time for celebration.
The Council have only confirmed that they will consider not building residential on the site alongside other options. We welcome news of a second consultation into the future of the Mill Hall and expect that all Councillors will indeed be able to contribute to any future proposals. The community has made it abundantly clear that the previous plans were unacceptable and that the hall should be retained and refurbished. We agree with this that only retention and refurbishment is acceptable.
As Rayleigh Town Council has now stated in the Spatial Options response: ‘Conservation Areas should not be developed’ it is our hope that RDC will listen and learn from this rejection and abandon all ideas for residential development on the Mill Hall and Civic Suite sites.
RDC's claim that demolishing the Mill Hall is the right thing for a carbon neutral future is also increasingly falling apart. First the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors say 'refurbish first' (a campaign backed by 14 Stirling prize winners!), now the Royal Academy of Engineering agrees in a BBC report released today.
In addition, this from the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers' Dr Julie Godefroy: "We have to avoid demolition and new-build. Often most of the material in an existing building is underground - so we should seek to use existing foundations."
RDC and it’s developer Gb Partnerships should take note - demolition is unwanted by the community, Essex County Council says development on the site is dangerous to heritage and the Conservation Area (ECC Place Services Heritage Assessment / Spatial Options Consultation 2021) and Rayleigh Town Council does not agree with any development in the Conservation Area (Spatial Options Consultation 2021 response).
RDC is rapidly running out of support for the demolition of Mill Hall.