A controversial £10 million scheme by LSI Architects to redevelop Thurrock Council’s civic offices is to go ahead after planning approval was granted
The plan involves replacing half of the existing council offices with 80 new homes and creating a three-storey building next door housing a registry office and garden, committee rooms, a café, large reception and a south-facing public seating area.
Labour opposition councillors campaigned against the expansion plans arguing they would be detrimental to the area. According to reports in the local press, the scheme would lead to the demolition of four independent businesses as well as a local park dedicated to D-Day planners.
The proposal for the new civic centre on Grays High Street is the first phase of the Grays South regeneration project, which aims to redevelop the high street and surrounding area. The Conservative-led council has already secured government investment of £11 million for a new underpass at Grays Station.
LSI Architects says the new building will be ‘highly sustainable’, targeting the BREEAM rating of Outstanding. The building will be arranged in two halves, split by a central spine of circulation, with one half comprising committee rooms and party offices, the other made up of the council chamber and a space for the public. The two halves are ‘carved’ to provide views in and out, and to enliven the elevation to the surrounding streets, LSI says.
LSI Architects director Peter Courtney said: ‘We believe the new building will capitalise on the opportunity to regenerate Grays South and bring a community focus to the lower high street, creating a stronger perceived connection over the railway and down to the river.’
Thurrock council lsi collage
The council’s cabinet member for regeneration Mark Coxshall said: ‘The plans to extend our civic offices will enhance the customer experience and improve the high street. Building this new extension will cost less overall than fully refurbishing the existing offices, as previously planned. Additionally, it means that we can build 80 new homes on a brownfield site rather than in the greenbelt.
‘The civic offices development will feature new and enhanced public spaces including meeting rooms which the community can use, a new café and outdoor seating area open to the public and a new registrar’s garden for ceremonial use.
‘Now that the extension has received planning permission, this exciting scheme can be progressed at pace.’
Grays is to receive up to £25 million from the government’s £3.6 billion Towns Fund. It has also been named one of the 50 towns that were successful in the first round of bids for the government’s Future High Street Fund, which offers the chance to bid for a share of £1 billion government funding.