Crunch vote due on Queensway funding

A crunch vote is due to take place on whether to claw back £4.2million of funding for the Queensway project in Southend as its future hangs in the balance.

The South East Local Enterprise Partnership is set to vote tonight (Friday) on whether to take back funding from the Southend regeneration project because it has become “high risk”.

The £575million project was launched in 2014 has been beset by problems, the latest being the financial collapse of the council’s partner in the scheme Swan Housing.

The organisation was taken over by Sanctuary Housing last year but it has failed to back the Better Queensway scheme that would see 1,700 new homes in the heart of the city.

The partnership’s accountability board will vote on whether to continue to support the scheme with its Getting Building Fund or “agree that, as there is not yet clarity as to the delivery route for all phases of the project, it should be removed from the GBF programme and the full £4.2 funding allocation returned to Essex County Council within four weeks”.

Tony Cox, leader of the council said he didn’t believe the funding would be withdrawn.

He said: “Our take on it is that nothing has come across my desk to say the council are taking it away. They would inform me.

“Nothing has passed our radar to say the money is in jeopardy. This is on every SELEP board project. They are all being monitored.”

Southend City Council is currently solely in charge of the scheme and will need to announce a new partner within six months although it has indicated it could decide to go ahead without a partner.

An update to the board said a project team will present the phase one plan to Southend Council “in early 2024 for guidance on the preferred delivery route. This will then start a procurement process for this work.

Removal of the footbridge is also expected to go ahead early this year and work is being undertaken to procure a contractor.

The council has been adamant that it is still committed to the scheme and it has cross-party support.

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter