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Southend on sea
Southend on sea

Published The Times January 25 2013


Southend-on-Sea, the Essex town that stretches over 7 miles of the Thames Estuary and boasts the longest pleasure pier in the world, has been scrubbing itself up to reverse the decline that has beset so many resorts. So, let’s not make jokes about kiss-me-quick hats, but focus on the excellent schools and the ease of the commute to London.

So, what’s been happening? Under the Better Southend initiative, £25 million has been spent on improving the seafront. The Forum, a £27 million partnership between the council, the University of Essex and South Essex College to create a new library, will encourage the student vibe. There will be a cultural centre on the pier, plus a new museum.

How it rates Halifax’s survey put Southend at the top of the 2012 UK house price polls with a rise of 14.8 per cent. The Land Registry survey shows a 3.9 per cent increase, still well above the national average. “We’re pleased Southend has been doing better than other places around the country and expect strong demand to continue,” Mike Gray, of the Dedman Gray agency, says.

Architectural gems The 14th-century moated manor house of Southchurch Hall is now a museum. It is a popular wedding venue, as is Prittlewell Priory, which reopened in June.

Smartest areas The Clifftown Conservation Area includes the Georgian Royal Terrace and the mid-Victorian Clifftown estate, which was designed by Robert Banks and Charles Barry. Chalkwell is the smartest area.

Green spaces The beaches blend into Southend Cliff Gardens while several parks dot the borough, including Belfairs Park and Priory Park.

Travel London Southend airport could soon be handling one million passengers a year and the trip from the aiport station to Liverpool Street is just 53 minutes.

Culture Jazz and comedy at the end of the pier. Classical concerts in the park and touring shows at The Cliffs Pavilion and Palace Theatre. Adventure Island and the Sea Life Adventure Aquarium provide family fun.

Restaurants The Boatyard in the clapboard fishing village part of Old Leigh or the snugly subterranean Pipe of Port on Southend’s High Street, great for pies. Rossi’s ice cream parlour is a local institution.

Shopping The High Street runs from the station to the pier and pound shops jostle with the chain stores. You will find independent boutiques in Leigh Broadway.

Schools The town’s four selective grammar schools are one reason for the reassessment of Southend.

Upside Your property pound goes farther here than in other London commuter towns and there’s seaside fun and good schools thrown in.

Downside The business district of Victoria Avenue is in a fragile state and the commercial landlords have yet to finalise plans for improvements.

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