Future of Southend Seaway development in balance

Plans for a £50million leisure complex on Southend’s Seaway car park could be scrapped if work does not begin soon, the council’s deputy leader has revealed.

Councillor Ron Woodley, Southend Council deputy leader, has insisted he still views the scheme as beneficial, as long as work gets underway in the near future.

The council is set to review its partnership with Turnstone Estates to develop Seaway car Park, in Lucy Road.

The scheme includes an 11-screen Empire Cinema, a 20-lane Hollywood Bowl, an 80-room Travelodge hotel and 555 public car parking spaces, along with a new public square.

Turnstone insisted finances and timelines are being worked out, and contracts would go out to tender soon, with the firm “remaining confident.”

Councillors are set to review whether the scheme should go ahead following the impact of COVID-19 or whether the council would benefit more from it remaining a car park.

Cllr Woodley said: “There are concerns about the timescale, as always. I know businesses are still very supportive of the scheme and it’s a question of do we therefore continue with the scheme and is there any way the council can improve its financial situation with it.

“Southend Business Partnership is positive about it. It will bring footfall to the town and it will create jobs.

“On the whole it’s very positive but the concern is about the commitment, the time factor and whether the developer can get the job done.”

Southend Council initially signed an agreement with Turnstone in November 2014, although plans were only given the green light in October 2020.

There is also concerns Tories will scrap the plan if they come into power following the May elections.

Cllr Woodley added: “I know COVID got in the way but if we are to go forward there must be no more hindrance and we must see what we can do as a council to push it forward.

“In my opinion the developer has got to start and be at the point of no return before the May elections because if there was to be another Tory administration they would pull it.

“It needs to go though scrutiny and council but there would be a very short time limit to get it started and there must be no ifs or buts. If they haven’t started by a certain time in any new agreement then we can say we have done our duty.”

Time Deacon, director at Turnstone Estates, said: “We are looking at all of this. There is lots to pull together particularly with a contractor. We are just about to go to tender to find a good contractor.

“Businesses are all still supportive and we will be able to announce further lettings soon. I remain confident.”

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter