Mayor’s casting vote settles hung Seaway debate

The £50million Seaway leisure scheme in Southend jumped a final hurdle as councillors narrowly voted to allow it to go ahead without further debate.

At a council meeting on Thursday, Southend Mayor, Margaret Borton, used her casting vote to break a hung vote and prevent the scheme being referred back to cabinet.

The council and development partners, Turnstone Leisure, can now get on with the complex, which includes an Imax cinema, restaurants and a hotel on the Seaway car park off Lucy Road, Southend.

Controversy has raged over a council decision to invest £10million to get the scheme off the ground after Turnstone failed to find investors.

Daniel Cowan, Labour councillor for St Laurence ward, called on council leader Ian Gilbert to explain the details in a way residents could understand.

Cllr Gilbert said: “This is the council choosing to invest its own money in its own development, a development in which we will retain the freehold, which we will receive the beneficial interest in rents and car parking income throughout the whole life of the scheme and which at the end of the term it will revert to us for £1.

“This is not about giving council’s money away to a developer.

“This will not involve us paying any rent.

“What the council will be repaying is simply the other amount of funding that will be invested by a fund to fund the cost of construction.”

Conservatives were accused of trying to delay the scheme but Cllr Tony Cox, leader of the Conservative group, said: “I don’t want to delay it, I want it scrapped.

“It’s an awful proposal fraught with risk.

“I can’t rubber stamp something when we don’t know how much money we are going to make from it.

“How are we going to get the people together needed to manage such a scheme?

“Now we are using £10 million from the back of the council sofa and I can’t get my head around how we have a car park, we take income from a car park and we are going to allocate £10 million to get income on a car park with reduced spaces.”

Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter