Rother District Council (RDC) is delighted to share its proposals on the redevelopment planned for the Town Hall site.

This Council-led redevelopment of the Town Hall and construction of a new Civic Centre will have huge benefits to Bexhill, its core community and wider interests. It will enhance the local area by creating a new demand for local businesses, becoming more community-focused and looking to realise the full potential of Bexhill as a lively, attractive focal point where people want to live, work and visit.

The refurbishment to the Town Hall will be light touch, maintaining its historic beauty whilst enhancing its overall energy performance. The civic centre extension to the Town Hall will have space for new business tenants, public café, efficient meeting areas and improved pedestrian access.

The purpose of this consultation is to explain the design proposals and convey RDC’s ambition to provide architecture and spaces that will signify Bexhill’s intention as a Town for the 21st Century as well as, a focus on placemaking, regeneration and economic prosperity.

On a wider scale, the project has the potential and ambition to become an exemplar building for a sustainable Town Centre redevelopment, reinvigorating existing building stock, and reducing carbon use in the fight against climate change. All aligning closely with local and national government policies and helping to address RDC Climate Emergency Declaration.

Brief History of Bexhill Town

1880s: The 7th Earl De La Warr began to reshape the modern seaside town of Bexhill as we know it today. He promoted it as a health resort.

Most of the buildings in the town centre were built between 1895 and 1905 under the patronage Viscount Canteupe.

The iconic De La Warr Pavilion is a landmark on the seafront. The building was opened in 1935 by King George VI and cost £80,000. The De La Warr Pavilion is now afforded Grade 1 listed status by English Heritage.

Town Profile

Bexhill is an attractive seaside town in East Sussex on the south coast of England between Hastings and Eastbourne.

It was a fashionable seaside resort in the late 19th Century and
early 20th Century but like similar coastal towns it has struggled to regenerate and reinvent itself.

However, the town is regarded as an attractive place to live and it has become one of several towns in the South East to which retirees are attracted. The mainly terraced buildings lie on flat land and the beach, with a grid pattern of streets which mainly lie at right angles or parallel to
the shore.

The Old Town of Bexhill lies to the northeast on a low hill. The main commercial streets are Sackville Road and Devonshire Road, which run north-south and Western Road and St. Leonard’s Road, which run east-west. Devonshire Road is particularly wide, with trees in places and was clearly laid out as the principal shopping street for the town.

Bexhill has retained its human scale through its many small shops, and we know that people enjoy Bexhill’s peaceful ambience, and the fact that the shopping area is so close to the sea.

The De La Warr Pavilion enjoys an international reputation both as a building and as a centre for contemporary arts, and the seafront is a significant asset and draw. There has been significant public investment in recent years to improve the De La Warr Pavilion, the seafront, Bexhill Museum and Egerton Park.

Issues and Challenges

Bexhill was a fashionable seaside resort in the late 19th Century and early 20th Century but like similar coastal towns it has struggled to regenerate and reinvent itself.

It has suffered from a downward trend in recent years, with a vulnerable and low wage mainly service sector economy, unemployment issues and increasing levels of deprivation.

Whilst Bexhill has undoubtedly fared better than some, these trends have nevertheless had a profound impact on the economy of the town.

The challenge for Bexhill-on-Sea is to re-position itself in the context of the wider economy to attract more and better employment and generate new wealth. The town centre has a key role to play in this.

Town centres provide a focal point for commercial and social activity as well as services, and are often seen as a measure of the prosperity of an area.

Recent research carried out by Rother District Council found that the town centre lacks a focal point. Due to the grid layout of the town centre, the shopping offer is spread out across a relatively wide area.

Railway line is a physical barrier that divides the town with limited connection points.

Opportunities

Potential for urban design and public realm improvements to attract further inward investment into the town.

Bexhill should encourage and facilitate commercial development as close to the Town Centre as possible, to increase the employment base of people working in and around the town.

The built environment can be a catalyst for development and attract visitors and investment. De La Warr Pavilion is a great example. Bexhill should ensure new developments respect and enhance its distinctive architectural character and heritage settings.

There is an opportunity to create the ‘civic heart of Bexhill’. This space has potential to become the town centre’s focal point and be a catalyst for regenerating the town centre and providing a high quality public realm that seeks to support and enhance community life.

Encourage active and sustainable travel by improving the town centre’s connectivity and improving pedestrian and cyclists’ safety.

Champion highly sustainable developments that align with Rother District Council’s Climate Emergency Declaration.

The main core of the Town Hall building is over 120 years old. The costs involved with heating the premises are particularly high as the overall heating system is outdated. Whilst some investment has taken place in recent years for the purposes of meeting statutory safety requirements, the building needs modernisation and refurbishment.

The redevelopment and transformation of the existing Town Hall to provide office and civic spaces appropriate for the 21st Century is hugely exciting.

There are numerous, very tangible benefits for the community and the council in the refurbishment to the existing Town Hall building with the provision of new workspaces and public spaces for an open, accessible and welcoming environment.

On a wider scale, the project has the potential and ambition to become exemplar building for sustainable city centre redevelopment, reinvigorating existing building stock, and reducing carbon use in the fight against climate change. All aligning closely with local an national government policies and helping to address Rother District Council’s Climate Emergency Declaration.

Orientation

The main approach to the site is South facing. There is opportunity to use a glazed facade in a new build element to the South creating a transparent and inviting entrance whilst also maximising on opportunities for passive heat gain. This would also provide the best opportunity for a garden terrace.

Access

There are numerous access points to the site currently. The access to the South allows vehicle movement across the front of the town hall, this can create an uninviting pedestrian approach. Shared space or removal of vehicular route across the front should be investigated within any proposal.

Noise Impacts

The main roads of London Road and Amherst Road are likely to create the most amount of noise. Placement of workspaces and specification of materials should consider how to mitigate against noise ingress.

Public Transport

The site has good public access with three local bus stops and being in close proximity to the train station. From Bexhill station, journey time to London is 1.5-2 hours. Bus stop locations may alter with the development of London Road which is currently out for consultation.

Pedestrian & Cycle Routes

The key pedestrian connection is to the town centre and the sea front to the South. There is a railway bridge to the South-West of the London Road public realm space which provides a good connection between both. Alongside this there is good pavement access to the site from the surrounding area.

Neighbouring Building Types

The site is surrounded by a mix of properties.

Heritage

The heritage setting has been taken into consideration during the design development. The massing has been articulated to respect the view of the roofscape of the existing Town Hall when approaching the building from the train station.

A light touch refurbishment of the Town Hall will be undertaken whilst key spaces such as the Committee Room and Council Chamber, will remain. Materials will be selected to complement and enhance the heritage setting.

Accessibility

The building will be accessible to the public. Floors are level between the new and existing parts of the development wherever this is achievable, in order to comply with accessibility standards.

Approach

As a civic building in the 21st Century, a key driver in the design is to provide an open and prominent frontage, asserting the presence of the Town Hall whilst also appearing inviting to the public. A degree of transparency will be achieved between the public realm and the main public spaces, as well as clear wayfinding throughout the facility.

Spatial Hierarchy

Strategies of private, semi-public and public space have been developed; and the inclusion of passive and physical security measures will create a safe, but not institutional, internal space.

Adaptability

There is a requirement for the spaces to be flexible and adaptable to accommodate possible future uses. This will be accomplished through the careful selection of materials, e.g. ensuring that internal walls can be dismantled and rebuilt as spatial demands evolve.

Connectivity

The proposed Town Hall Square plans by East Sussex County Council will improve pedestrian and cyclists connectivity to the town centre. The entrance is inviting and well connected to the public realm. It also allows the ground floor public internal areas to have a visual connection to pleasant external views. Double-height spaces will also help bring natural light deep into the plan. These features will be beneficial to the wellbeing of the users.

Materiality

The internal and external materials will be chosen based on their robustness, sustainable attributes, their benefits for health and wellbeing, and their compliance with accessibility standards.

Preferred Option

The preferred option for the Town Hall development was developed following stakeholder engagement. This option has been selected based on its merits in terms of:

  • Conserving and enhancing the heritage setting
  • Retaining the core elements of the Town Hall including the Council Chamber and Committee Room.
  • The visual impact of the new build from the main approach and key views.
  • Providing a ‘civic heart’ for Bexhill
  • Provision of a 21st-century civic facility that is open and inviting for the public, while still providing security and privacy.
  • Improvement on the DDA compliance across all the facilities with level access.
  • Improvement on the sustainability strategy with consideration given to orientation and window placement for the new build and reducing the carbon footprint of the Town Hall
  • Improved rationalisation of the site with the removal of various infill building to the rear of the Town Hall.
  • Provision of flexible and adaptable accommodation for the future success of the Town Hall.

Description of Proposal

The proposal contains the following main elements:

  • A double height atrium, providing a light touch connection between the existing and proposed.
  • A publically accessible ground floor with a cafe. It has a glazed frontage to activate and animate the public realm and enables a transparent/open connection.
  • First and second floor with rentable office space to provide employment oppportunity and generate income. The 3rd floor includes an event space with a roof terrace including a wild flower green roof to encourage biodiversity and promote health and wellbeing.
  • A courtyard and green space between the Town Hall and Amherst Road Job Centre Building.
  • Car parking provision at the rear, on the site of the existing Autolec Building and surrounding land.

Sustainability is at the heart of the Town Hall Renaissance proposals.

A holistic sustainable approach has been adopted with consideration for environmental to socio-economic issues.

In line with Rother District Council’s Climate Emergency Declaration, the design embraces best practice sustainable principles.

Reuse, Repurpose, Adapt: Consideration has been given to the value contained within the existing site and buildings to determine how to make use of the existing resources and minimise environmental impact. The core of the Town Hall will be retained and the thermal performance enhanced and indoor comfort levels improved to minimise its carbon footprint and promote health and wellbeing.

Minimise Carbon Footprint: The design seeks to minimise its carbon footprint by incorporating good practice principles when choosing materials, considering the building’s orientation and footprint, fabric performance, travel options and exploring potential for renewables.

Placemaking: The design seeks to prioritise placemaking and integration within the local community. The intention is to provide a ‘civic heart’ for Bexhill which supports community life and enhances the town centre and amplifies civic pride.

Connectivity | Active Travel: This is a key driver in the design. It seeks, together with the potential ESCC project for Town Hall Square, to improve pedestrian and cyclist connectivity to the town centre. Pedestrian and cyclist safety will be prioritised; a pedestrian-oriented approach which will encourage active, green travel.

Health and Wellbeing: The health and well being of the occupants will be considered by ensuring the ventilation, indoor air quality, thermal comfort and materials chosen have a positive impact. WELL Building Standard principles will be used.

Economic Prosperity: The provision of lettable office space in the new extension will meet demand for modern and flexible workplace accommodation whilst providing opportunity to create employment.

Biodiversity: The design will seek to make biodiversity net gains by exploring potential for green roofs.

SuDS: Potential for blue roofs to encourage sustainable drainage systems