Blues chairman gets green light for new dream stadium

Southend United chairman Ron Martin finally got the go ahead for his dream of a new 21,000 seater stadium to support the club over the “next 100 years”.

Councillors voted 15 to two abstentions in favour of one of the largest planning applications in decades.

As well as the state-of-the-art stadium, the site on Fossetts Farm off Eastern Avenue, will eventually have 1,461 homes. A 107-bedroom hotel is also included in the plans along with a club shop, a restaurant and conference space.

Speaking to councillors at a special development control meeting on Monday, Mr Martin said: “I think the application is robust. This is a fully policy-compliant scheme, not only delivering a large degree of affordable housing at affordable rents but most importantly it’s a project for the heart of the town and now a city.

“It’s an opportunity to build a stadium to fulfil the ambitions for Southend United for the next hundred years. I think that’s a hugely important community project. Along with the stadium comes many other community benefits.”

Speaking of the club’s future, he added: “With modern facilities, we believe a sustainable position in the championship is possible and whilst people might say that we’re languishing at the moment, that’s true, but the modern era of football requires improved income streams and this project will achieve that.

“With a population of 200,000 in Southend and 360,000 in an eight mile radius this is very sustainable for Southend United now and for the future.”

Homes England will loan Roots Hall Limited, the firm behind the development, alongside Thames Plaza, the £30million sum by November 30.

Both firms name Mr Martin and his son Jack, as directors.

Roots Hall Limited will then lease the new stadium and training ground to the football club itself.

Councillors were largely supportive of the scheme, which will also provide sports facilities for the community

Victoria ward councillor, Jennifer Beck, said: “I think this has the potential for socio-economic uplift with over 500 jobs provided for the local community during the construction phase. What a difference it will make to the people having access to affordable housing and the aspirations and training opportunities for young people interested in football and who are in the young squads now and in the development teams.”

Matt Dent, Labour councillor for Kursaal ward, also backed the scheme. He said: “Since long before I came to Southend the idea of a new stadium for Southend United seemed to be almost a running joke. It was the thing that would never happen. Now we have an opportunity to make it happen.

“Not only that but it will deliver a significant portion of affordable housing for the town and whilst I understand objections about the amount of development, it’s important to bear in mind that if we refuse good schemes in positions like this then we face the loss of green belt land or have it approved over our heads. I think that this is a brilliant scheme. We finally get to take to make Southend United’s new stadium happen.”

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter