Decision expected soon on whether council will partner with Southend Utd on housing

The leaders of all political parties in Southend are locked in discussions over whether the council should enter into a deal that would see it managing an ambitious new housing development on the site of Roots Hall stadium.

Council officers began exploring the viability of the deal in September and it could see the authority become the leaseholder of a housing development that will replace the Southend United stadium once the club moves to Fossetts Farm.

The leasehold deal between the council and developer Citizen Housing is expected to come at a significant cost to the council in the short-term but would help fund the construction of more than 500 new homes and lead to long-term benefits.

These include allowing the council to retain all income earned through properties rented at the site and eventually full ownership.

It has now emerged that the leaders of each political party will jointly make a decision on progressing the deal behind closed door using emergency procedures.

The council says there will make an announcement in the coming days.

Emergency powers are being using to debate the deal after a public meeting on the issue was unable to take place last week due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Details of how much the council will actually need to pay and where that money will come from remains unclear because the final housing plans have not been confirmed.

Meanwhile, other major discussions which were due to take place this week focussing on the future of Southend’s pier and £500million regeneration of Queensway will be rescheduled.

Councillor Ian Gilbert, leader of the council, said: “As we continue to deal with the coronavirus outbreak and follow national Government guidance, the special meeting of cabinet along with others was rightly postponed.

“The item on Roots Hall development is being dealt with under the council’s urgency procedures with the involvement of the four group Leaders.

“An update on progress will be announced this week. The other cabinet items will be considered at a later date, the timings of which will be confirmed in due course.”

Southend United boss Ron Martin previously said the decision on the Roots Hall deal would “determine the club’s future”.

It continues to be unclear how long the country will have to follow the stay at home restrictions but Mr Gilbert said he expects government guidance on holding virtual meetings shortly.

“The Coronavirus Act 2020 gives the Secretary of State power to make Regulations to permit meetings to be held remotely.

“We are expecting the Regulations imminently and in the meantime we are looking into options and logistics of how this could work.”

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Mick Ferris

Editor Email: [email protected]