Housing associations merger renews hope for Southend and Basildon estates

The merger of two housing associations has been completed, paving the way for thousands of new homes to be built in south Essex.

Swan Housing Association and Sanctuary Housing have signed a deal that could see major home building schemes like the £575million Queensway regeneration scheme in Southend and the Craylands Estate in Basildon finally getting off the ground.

Swan was due to merge with the Orbit group last year but the deal fell through when it emerged Swan only had enough cash to keep afloat until December.

Talks are now under way on which Swan schemes will get the go ahead from Sanctuary.

Swan is partnered with Southend Council to deliver 1,700 new homes on the Queensway Estate along with shops, cafes and leisure and community facilities.

Preliminary work was halted until Swan produced a viable business plan to councillors following completion of the merger.

The scheme entails the demolition of four dilapidated town centre tower blocks.

Swan Housing is also committed to a multi-year plan for a £250million regeneration of the Craylands Estate in 2006, with plans to build 1,310 homes.

It is also behind the Laindon Centre project, a 224-home development, which will be built alongside a new Lidl, 16 shops, and a medical centre.

Swan said it “will continue as a standalone operation while future integration plans are discussed”.

Ian Gilbert, councillor responsible for economic recovery, regeneration and housing, said: “Transforming the Queensway estate and delivering genuinely affordable housing across the city is a priority for this council and we welcome the news that Swan Housing Association has joined with Sanctuary Housing.

“We eagerly anticipate discussions about Better Queensway and moving the project forward that will not only benefit the residents that live there but is a key part of our economic recovery as a city.”

Craig Moule, group chief executive of Sanctuary, said: “As one of the largest providers of social housing in the country, Sanctuary is financially strong, well-run and has the experienced team in place to help Swan manage its challenges.

“We are committed to securing the strength of the sector, ensuring affordable housing continues to be accessible in communities across the country.”

Susan Hickey Swan’s chief executive, will leave the organisation following the merger.

Dave Soothill, previously Sanctuary’s development director in England, will assume responsibility for Swan as its managing director.

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter