Any further delays could scupper Queensway regeneration says Southend City Council leader

The £575million overhaul of Queensway will be “killed” if there are any more delays, the leader of Southend Council fears.

The Queensway regeneration scheme in Southend will feature 1,760 new homes, as well as new shops and cafes.

However, the scheme is now facing a nine-month delay, with leader of the council Ian Gilbert now stating this could put the project at risk.

Initial work was due to be partially funded by £4.2million from the South East Local Enterprise Partnership, however the deadline to spend it is September.

Cllr Gilbert said: “The council has voted on the layout of the underpass now probably more times than I can count.

“Reopening that decision now means killing the scheme. At the very least it would mean all the grant money would be lost because it would be a huge dislocation to the time table.”

The Porters Place Southend LLP, a partnership between Southend Council and Swan Housing, asked the council’s shareholder board for a second extension until December 31.

The partnership was unable to draw up a new budget and business case for the remainder of the scheme by a March deadline citing rising building costs.

Conservative councillors agreed the extension but made a recommendations that no further work is done other than removing a pedestrian bridge.

Tories also called for a halt on plans to fill in the Queensway underpass and an audit on Swan to take place.

Kevin Buck, Conservative councillor for Prittlewell ward, said: “I still have significant concerns over the financial liability of this scheme.

“We have been told from day one this scheme is barely financially viable in the first instance and that concerns many people because given this is a 15-year scheme. The legacy of a financial liability is going to be left for others to pick up potentially.”

At cabinet on Tuesday Cllr Gilbert said it would not be possible to audit a private company but he agreed careful scrutiny of the project would be carried out and only removal of the bridge and preliminary works would be allowed before a new business case was produced.

Cllr Gilbert and the cabinet rejected calls to keep the underpass. The issue is due to be discussed at a special place scrutiny meeting and at full council on Thursday.

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter