Housing association withdraws from Southend Queensway regeneration project

Sanctuary Housing Association has confirmed its intention to withdraw from the Better Queensway project in Southend.

The news is confirmed in a report to Southend City Council’s shareholder board which will be discussed on Monday August 14 along with managing Sanctuary’s exit from the limited liability partnership (LLP) that was set up to deliver the project.

This follows the merger between Swan Housing Association and Sanctuary earlier this year. Sanctuary has now confirmed its intention to prioritise investment and commitment to existing homes and communities and focus on the delivery of schemes where construction has already started.

Cllr David Garston, cabinet member for housing and planning, says: “We had of course been hopeful of working together with Sanctuary. However, we understand that their priority is to protect the tenants and homes that they have taken over from Swan Housing Association.

“The Better Queensway regeneration project has always been about the residents of the estate, and we know this news will be disappointing for them, as it is for the council and all those that have worked hard on the project for many years.

“In the short term and whilst we consider next steps, we will ensure that our tenants are well looked after and that any remaining empty flats will be brought back into use.”

There are several options for the council to consider on how it could progress the regeneration scheme. These include delivering the scheme in its current form itself, by taking on the developer role and awarding construction contracts for the works – or seeking an alternative partner to continue with the current scheme. The existing LLP could be utilised for this purpose.

In addition, the council could review the current scheme and promote an alternative for consideration.

Cllr Dan Nelson, cabinet member for economic growth and investment, said: “Although we must now assess what our next steps will be, we remain committed to finding a solution so we can take a project forward and transform this area for the benefit of the local community and the city as a whole.

“The council’s priority is to establish clarity on the best way forward for the city, local residents and all stakeholders as soon as possible and quickly develop potential options to deliver the city’s regeneration ambition for this area, in line with full council’s unanimous support of the project.

“This work will be completed as quickly as possible, and the intention is to report back to a future meeting of Cabinet on these findings and to recommend a way forward.”

Cllr Ian Gilbert, shadow cabinet member for Business, Regeneration and Finance, an early champion of the scheme, said: “This is of course extremely disappointing news, and the most important thing now though is the needs of existing residents in the short and long term.

“There are questions to be answered around whether the attitude of the Conservatives in opposition and administration towards the scheme contributed to getting to this point, or weakened the council’s position in exit negotiations.

“The current scheme has planning permission for large parts of it, and much detailed design work has been done, this work is valuable and I believe could lead to Queensway getting underway again with another delivery mechanism.

“Further steps will have to be taken to safeguard living condition on the estate, and I urge the Police and South Essex Homes to redouble efforts to tackle anti-social behaviour and vandalism on the estate.”

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Mick Ferris

Editor Email: mickferris@yellowad.co.uk