Final hurdle for Seaway falls as government backs Southend Council

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The final hurdle has been removed for a £50million leisure complex after the government gave the project the greenlight.

Plans to redevelop the Seaway Car Park on Lucy Road into a major Leisure centre were reviewed by the secretary of state after consultancy firm RPS disputed Southend Council’s claim that an environmental impact assessment was not needed for planning permission.

But on Friday the government announced it had sided with the council, clearing the way for a crucial planning meeting on Wednesday when the development is expected to get the greenlight.

A council spokesperson said: “We have received notification from the secretary of state that the Seaway development proposal is ‘not EIA development’.

“This means there is no need for an environmental impact assessment and the current planning proposal is unaffected.”

Developer Turnstone Estates welcomed the outcome that said the development “is not likely to have significant effects on the environment” and does not require any further environmental studies.

Tim Deacon, director at Turnstone said: “We’re delighted that the secretary of state has agreed with Southend Council’s independent legal advice and further recognises that Historic England has no issue with our plan to invest £50 million in Southend.

“It’s now time for Southend to grab with both hands the golden opportunity that Seaway Leisure presents to secure a bright and vibrant future for Southend’s town centre.”

The council’s planning team has recommended that councillors give planning permission on Wednesday but the council’s deputy leader, Cllr Ron Woodley, said permission could still be refused.

If it is refused and Turnstone is unsuccessful in an appeal, Mr Woodley added it would be the “end of the story” for Turnstone’s plans.

The secretary of state referral was made by RPS which was employed to review planning documents by Adventure Island boss Philip Miller through his company the Stockvale Group.

Mr Miller has been a fierce critic of the plans and fears that if it goes ahead his company will become “extinct”. He criticised the council for scheduling the planning meeting two days before the secretary of state’s decision was announced, calling it an “act of desperation”.

Mr Miller has also criticised Mr Woodley’s support for the scheme and accused him of putting pressure on councillors over the decision they make. The deputy leader dismissed the accusations, pointing out that the committee is cross-party and the decision is “in the hands of 17 ordinary councillors”.

In a further dispute, Mr Miller questioned if the councillor had “overstepped his position” when he paid to place an advert in a local magazine in support of the plans.

Mr Woodley said he was seeking to “set the record straight” and give residents a full picture of the benefits the development could bring to the town.

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Steve Shaw

Local Democracy Reporter