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Southend United’s finances could be to blame for a near-three-year delay to planning permission for a major new stadium complex, a councillor has claimed.
It was revealed that a Southend Council meeting to decide on whether to grant planning for the £25million Blues stadium on Fossetts Farm, off Eastern Avenue, had been delayed again so the council and the club can resolve “outstanding planning issues”.
But shortly after the announcement, Labour Councillor Matt Dent took to social media to claim that the 21,000-seat stadium was being held back due to the club’s finances, which has seen them struggling to pay players.
Mr Dent wrote on Twitter he would discuss the matter with the council’s chief executive Alison Griffin but “my understanding is that the delays to the stadium are more to do with the club’s finances as anything else”.
He added: “They are still struggling to pay players.”
Mr Dent’s comments came after the former chair of the Seafront Traders Association Paul Thompson had accused the council of delaying the application so that changes can be made to the plans to avoid competition with the proposed £50million Seaway leisure complex, off Lucy Road.
Labour council leader Councillor Ian Gilbert dismissed the claim.
He said: “Competition is not something you take into account in that way in the planning process. Cumulative economic impact you can consider but competition between businesses is not a planning matter.”
He continued: “We are considering this in planning terms and there is absolutely no link between Seaway and the stadium development. Whilst I can certainly see why people would highlight the current news around the health of the football club as being a factor, speaking on behalf of the council, we are still in productive discussions and the club continued to tell us they have got a way of taking this forward.
“Unfortunately, pre-application negotiations between developers and the council as a planning authority have to stay confidential so I can’t give a full update, as much as I would like to.
“I can say that many of us, me included, are worried about the effect an out of town shopping centre would have on the High Street but that is one of many factors being taken into account in the planning process. I can’t say more than that.”
Southend United club chairman Ron Martin declined to comment.