Council strikes landmark deal with Southend United which could clear the way for new stadium

Hundreds of new homes in Southend and major new football stadium could become a reality after the council struck a major deal with the town’s football club.

Southend Council has announced it will enter into an agreement with Citizen Housing and Southend United Football Club to manage hundreds of new homes built on both the existing Roots Hall stadium site and around a planned stadium on Fossetts Farm, off Eastern Avenue.

The agreement means the Fossetts Farm stadium plans have been significantly revised, with plans for shops, a cinema and restaurants all being dropped and replaced with housing.

But the council says there will still be some space for a new health centre, convenience store and a community hub.

In total, the council will manage more than 1,300 rented homes with 502 at Roots Hall and around 800 at Fossetts Farm.

Around 30 per cent of these will be priced as ‘affordable’ rent.

As the leaseholder of the site, the council will receive all rent from the homes leading to a long-term source of income.

Eventually it will have the option to purchase the freehold of the leased homes for £1.

The decision to drop all retail space and the cinema at the stadium comes after an independent report by consultancy firm Boyers, commissioned by Southend Council, claimed at the end of 2018 that the plans were already causing retailers to avoid investing in the town centre.

The change also means the stadium will no longer compete with a planned leisure centre on the Seaway Car Park, off Lucy Road, which also aims to bring a new cinema and restaurants.

Another change to the stadium plan is a reduction in capacity, with the first phase of the scheme including 14,000 seats, down from the initially planned 21,000.

Later, phases of the scheme could see this increase to the full 21,000.

To finance the plans, it is understood that the government-operated Home England has agreed to provide a loan to the club for building the stadium on the basis that it will lead to a significant number of houses. The final costs are still be decided.

The football club will now be expected to submit revised planning applications, with neither able to move forward until planning permission has been secured.

The previous planning application for Fossetts Farm was under consideration by the council for almost three years as the new revisions were being planned.

Three years of setback and delays

The landmark deal that paves the way for a new football stadium on Fossetts Farm has come after years negotiations between the council and Southend United.

An initial planning application for the stadium was submitted in April 2017 and while most applications are considered by the council within six to twelve months, this one became plagued with setbacks.

The council found themselves having to negotiate an extension with the club multiple times over the course of three years.

During that time, a planning application was also submitted for housing that will be built on the Roots Hall stadium site once it has been demolished.

Early plans for the multi-million-pound stadium would have had a capacity of 21,000 spectators and included home, shops, restaurants, a cinema and four full-sized grass football pitches.

But the ambitious proposals faced opposition from businesses, including Southend BID which feared the retail and entertainment options would cause the stadium to compete with the town centre and draw people away from the High Street.

There were further fears that a proposal to redevelop the Seaway car park, off Lucy Road, into a major new leisure complex would result in two developments competing with each other at different ends of the town.

With the new deal struck between the council, the club is now expected to put together a revised planning application that addresses concerns about retail space by replacing it with housing.

Many of the details have already been worked out between the club and the council so it is unlikely there will be another three year wait before a decision on planning permission is made.

Advertisement

Steve Shaw

Local Democracy Reporter