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The long-delayed £25million new Southend United stadium could begin construction by 2021 and be finished in less than three years, a new timetable has revealed.
A planning application for the Fossetts Farm Stadium has been stuck in limbo with Southend Council for more than three years but deputy leader Councillor Ron Woodley has said there will be “no more holding back”.
New planning documents outline the timetable for development, starting with work on the stadium during summer 2021 if planning permission has been granted.
The stadium is expected to be completed in less than three years, with the completion date scheduled for spring 2024.
Cllr Woodley said: “This is too near to the mark to have another delay. A lot of work has been done by officers and I think because of that it is basically there.
“That time scale should be quite close to what we will follow. We need to get it done, no more holding back. No ifs or buts, it needs to happen and it will happen.”
In April, Southend Council struck a deal with Southend United and social housing provider Citizen Housing that will see the authority take on the role of managing 1,300 of homes set to be built at both the site of the existing stadium on Roots Hall and surrounding the new stadium.
An initial cash injection is understood to be coming from the Government’s Homes England, which has agreed to provide a loan to the club for building the stadium.
But this is being given on the basis that the project will lead to a significant number of homes, meaning Southend United is having to reshape its original planning application to drop plans for shops, a cinema and restaurants.
There has been some speculation that the commercial element was removed due to its potential to compete with plans for a major new leisure complex on the Seaway car park, off Lucy Road, but Cllr Woodley denied this was the reason.
Instead, he claimed the bigger danger would be the competition it could have posed to existing businesses in the town centre.
The 1,119 homes at Fossetts Farm will be the most time-consuming element of the plan with the timetable estimated construction to begin in 2021 but not finishing until summer 2027.
That revised planning application is yet to be submitted to the council but Blues boss Ron Martin expressed confidence in the new timetable.
He claimed the council and the club are “making excellent progress in all respects” and gave reassurance that the Covid-19 pandemic has had “no negative impact whatsoever”.