Building of new Blues stadium to begin next year

Building work on the new Southend United Stadium, which will take more than six years to complete, is expected to start in the new year.

It is estimated the scheme will generate £500million for the local economy and create more than 1,000 new jobs.

The phased development includes plans to build 502 homes at Roots Hall once the stadium is ready for the club to move into.

This plan was also approved at Monday’s development control meeting.

Councillor Ian Gilbert, leader of the Southend Council, welcomed the two schemes. He said: “It is excellent news for the club and for Southend. It’s something that has been talked about for a very long time.

“Aprart from the secretary of state’s approval being in place, we look forward to work starting in the new year. Contractors are all lined up ready to start as soon as they get the formal go ahead.”

Southend United chairman Ron Martin has promised £15 million towards mitigating traffic congestion, but some had reservations over the plans.

Speaking at the meeting, resident Mr Walker, said: “The proposed location of this stadium and its associated commercial development would place enormous demands on Priory Crescent and East Street and it is unsuitable in that it is much further from any residential areas.

“Football supporters will be less likely to walk to games and car use would be increased. Should Southend United ever attract 21,000 supporters to a home game then that would imply that two hours leading up to the kick off many thousands of extra cars would clog up what are already bottlenecks.”

Faye Evans, Conservative councillor for West Leigh ward, added: “Southend is one of the most densely populated urban areas outside London. We cannot accommodate expansion at this level. We haven’t the space, the roads, schools or Gps

“When Queensway is built traffic will be directed down Sutton road ending up in Eastern Avenue. More congestion. Are our residents ever considered in our town? This is not fair to them, having to live in a congested town with little access to the service they may need and it will get worse.”

Speaking after the meeting, Eastern Avenue resident Marcia Carr said: “There are so many positives but I don’t think they really understood that whole sensibility about infrastructure. It just isn’t there.

“The amount of people that have got run over on that road because people are speeding. My children can’t cross the road because people don’t adhere to the crossings. We’ve had a lamp post that has been knocked down twice. Where’s the infrastructure belonging to the development? Where’s the care for the residents already there? I just think none of them thought about the bigger picture other than let’s just build a stadium.

“It’s great. It’s going to have a fantastic future but I just think there ought to have been more thought about the residents that are already there whose lives are going to be disrupted for six years.”

The new development and homes in Roots Hall will be built in three main phases.

Stands in the West and East will be built in the first phase and followed later by a north stand.

Two corners of the stadium will accommodate 182 apartments. Blocks will range up to nine storeys high.

Housing development at Roots Hall will not begin until the club is able to move into the new stadium seating no less than 13,893 fans.

Of the 1,461 homes proposed, 30 per cent are allocated to be affordable.

Once vacated, the old club will be demolished and replaced with nine blocks from two to eight storeys high to provide 502 homes.

The scheme includes new training grounds, including some under a dome providing community sports facilities.

There will be both space and funding available for a new health centre to be built in later stages of the development set to take place over 6.5 years

The scheme includes improved pedestrian and cycle links and routes to public transport.

Impact on the highway network will be mitigated by various junction improvements and signalising in Sutton Road and Eastern Avenue junctions and at Cuckoo corner.

There will be a new section of cycleway along Eastern avenue.

The 67-acre site around Fossetts Farm includes Southend United’s current training grounds and is mostly undeveloped green belt land.

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

Both firms name Blues chairman Ron Martin and his son Jack, as directors.

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

Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter