Focus for future on regeneration of Southend High Street but there has to be “balance”

A huge focus for the future will be “re-energising” parts of Southend in the wake of the COVID crisis.

With growing pressure on councils to build more homes, town planners and councillors are revisiting how they can best use the land they have available.

The Seaway scheme was expected to “turbo-charge” the economy, creating hundreds of jobs with new bars, restaurants, hotel and multiplex cinema but whether it is still a valid use of precious land is being called into question.

Council deputy leader, Ron Woodley, called for more new homes in the town centre.

Carole Mulroney, Lib Dem councillor responsible for environment, said: “I think Ron is right.

“We’ve got to re-energise the High Street. Seaway was leisure-based and that’s one of the things we think will revive the High Street but there has got to be a balance.

“I think leisure plays a strong part and culture plays a strong part. If people come into town they want a variety of things. Ron is right in that there needs to be an element of residential.

“Lots of people like city living with access to train and bus stations.”

Ms Mulroney added: “Seaway may need to be looked at in a different way but I think there will always be a call for that kind of big leisure.”

Southend Seafront Traders’ Association has fought the Seaway scheme.

Member Paul Thompson, said: “There is growing demand for car parking, and parking revenue from Seaway has increased significantly over the last few years. Times have changed and demand for cinema-led restaurant developments has plummeted.

“Many of the proposed tenants are in administration. If it had been built the council would be significantly out of pocket from this white elephant with very little rent and no revenue at all from business rates coming in.”

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter