Housing deal that will signal lifesaving sale of Southend United to be pushed through

A deal to deliver up to 1,311 new homes at Fossetts Farm that will allow the sale of Southend United and trigger a £20million cash injection for the club is set to be rushed through.

Club chairman Ron Martin and Southend City Council are said to have agreed a complex housing deal that will mean a new start for the troubled club.

It comes amid the final negotiations with a consortium led by Australian businessman Justin Rees to buy the club..

Details of the agreement unveiled in a report, set to go before the council’s policy and resources committee on Wednesday, show a mix of up-market apartments and houses that will ensure the scheme is financially viable.

Tony Cox, leader of the council has spearheaded the rescue deal for the club. He said: “This is the final piece of the puzzle. At the moment there is no red flag showing and that’s given us the assurance to proceed at this stage and to recommend approval.

“It’s going to be after the election, but all the partners are committed to try and do this because of the urgency of the winding up petition.”

The exact mix is yet to be finalised as the council has had to undertake a complicated due diligence process. In order to allow the club sale, the committee will be asked to approve this being delegated to council officers to complete but the final approval will rest with the council leader.

The committee will be asked to allow the scheme to go forward to an exchange of contracts on the deal, which includes a s106 agreement for a financial contribution of £20milion to be made by the landowner Thames Plaza Plc and the developer Citizen Housing. The cash from development profits will be handed over to the club in a phased arrangement over ten years, with no cost to the council.

The deal was pushed through as a matter of urgency to allow the club’s sale to the consortium ahead of a winding up order set for May.

Cllr Cox added: “We are three quarters of the way through due diligence. The urgency of the paper has been forced along by the winding up petition.

“Bringing the paper allows us and all partners, the consortium as well as Ron Martin to actually get this all concluded by the time of the adjourned winding up petition.”

“The flexibility is in there for all partners to be able to proceed and crack on. I gave a commitment that we would get a paper done in April. We pulled out all the stops at very short notice.”

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter