Adventure island owner says leisure development will lead to extinction of family business

A leading Southend businessman has urged councillors to throw out plans to redevelop the Seaway car park into a major new leisure development due to fears that it will destroy his business.

Philip Miller MBE, executive chairman of the Stockvale Group, which owns Adventure Island, Sea Life Adventure and Clarence Yard, warned that if the £50million Seaway Leisure Centre is given planning permission it will cause the “extinction” of his business.

Mr Miller made the claims in an email sent to all of Southend’s 51 councillors and seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

He goes on to say that if his company were to collapse the impact on the surrounding businesses would be “catastrophic”.

The developer behind the leisure centre, Turnstone Estates, is under pressure to obtain planning permission for the scheme by January 14, 2020, due to terms agreed in a contract with the council.

That deadline was agreed by councillors after they were forced to extend the terms of the contract at the beginning of the year due to Turnstone failing to deliver planning documents by December 2018, which had previously been agreed.

The council is expected to discuss awarding planning permission at a special development control committee meeting before Christmas.

In his email to councillors, Mr Miller wrote: “If this scheme was allowed to happen it would lead to the extinction of my family business.

“The knock-on effect to surrounding businesses would be catastrophic if we were to close.

“The town’s hotels would suffer a downturn as well, who gain much extra business from us.

“On top of which the guaranteed closure of the Odeon cinema wrecking the North end of the High Streets trade.”

He goes on to blame the plans, which he brands “Seaway madness” for the closure of the Kursaal and warns the Odeon Cinema on London Road is “guaranteed” to meet the same fate, as well as the northern end of the High Street.

Mr Miller did not provide any evidence in the email exchange to show why he believes Seaway would lead to the collapse of his business.

Council leader Ian Gilbert said: “The details of this were all agreed in February, the positions regarding the development remain the same and this is now a matter that has to be resolved on planning grounds.”

Council documents show that the scheme is expected to create around 500 jobs in the town and generate an additional £15million for the local economy each year.

However, Mr Miller added: “It’s not the development we are against as such, after all it’s the council’s property they can fill it up with strip joints if they want.

“The reason we are so adamantly against is it will lead to the extinction of our business.

“If you take away our car parking you cut off our oxygen simple as that, ninety percent of our customers visit by car.

“For comparison Festival Leisure Park has in excess of two thousand spaces and still gets overrun, if built seaway will reduce to five hundred and fifty five from the existing six hundred and sixty one even with that number and it can’t keep up.

“We are a bit like shops at Christmas they need every penny they can take to see them through the rest of the year.

“Adventure Island feeds the high street as well as the seafront whereas this development will not.

“It really is a case of them or us.

“The Kursaal have already thrown in the towel the Odeon have said they will close if it happens thereby killing off businesses at the North End of the high street, a bit of a tale of devastation all in the name of progress.”

Steve Shaw

Local Democracy Reporter