Fossetts homes under spotlight from new Southend Council administration

A change of leadership at Southend City Council will see some major issues put under the spotlight, including a homes deal that will pave the way for the sale of Southend United.

Independents say they are ready to support a new Labour led joint administration but both groups say they have reservations about a development of 1,300 homes at Fossetts Farm that could see the council liable to pay rent on unlet homes.

The finer details of a new waste contract have also yet to be ironed out.

The Fossetts deal will see the upmarket homes leased to the council under a build-to-rent finance scheme.

The council will lease the homes and gather rents, retaining a management fee and passing the rest to Thames Plaza a company run by Southend United chairman, Ron Martin’s sons Jack and Thomas.

If the council fails to rent the properties the council will be liable for the rents.

Daniel Cowan, leader of the Labour Group, said: “There are a lot of really big issues facing the city at the moment. The two biggest ones being the waste contract and the Fossetts Farm development.

“The Labour Group’s position is that we will do everything we can to deliver a development at Fossetts Farm that works for the city and that we have to wait to see the outcome of the due diligence before we can make any firm decisions on how we move forward.”

Martin Terry, leader of the Independent Group, said: “We’ve got some major challenges such as the football club, the waste contract, the financial challenges. All these things need to be got to grip with quickly.

“With the football club, there are concerns around that deal and we are waiting for financial assessors to make a recommendation to members. There questions around this gold-plated voids situation where theoretically the void rents will have to be paid by the city council. It’s understanding what that means in black and white.”

Cllr Terry added: “I want the club to go onwards and upwards but we can’t do that at the cost of the city. I’m sure a deal will be worked out but we’ll have to ensure we protect the city.

“I don’t think we can afford a delay but we are waiting on the professional judgement of people. It’s a complex deal that needs to work for the club and the city.

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter