MoD site should be an option to solve housing dilemma, says Southend Tory leader

The vast weapons testing site at Shoeburyness and Foulness should be considered in the mission to build 23,500 new homes in Southend, a leading councillor has suggested.

Southend Tory group leader Cllr Tony Cox is calling for a host of sites across Southend to be considered for development, including revisiting previous plans to build on the the weapons testing base.

It comes as 2.2 miles of green belt land was included in a consultation on where Southend Council can build enough homes to deliver a 23,500 homes target imposed by Government.

Senior council leaders stated it is unlikely the MoD will give up the land, but Mr Cox insisted the site must be looked at, as well as the Seaway car park on the seafront.

He said: “I have a few different ideas. We could renew existing housing estates and rebuilding some of them like we are with the Queensway project, it’s not unheard of.

“I also think the MOD land is an option too – industrial sites like this could be moved to the edge of the town to free up space for homes.

“A lot of the site in Shoebury is not in use and I believe it could work for new homes, and its not used for everything that it used to be so would work well.

“I also think we need to use site such as the Seaways car park which could have two levels of parking and homes above it too. We are not considering all the options.”

In 2006, 2,000 homes were proposed for the vast swathes of land around Shoebury ranges. The idea of a new mini-town was resurrected in 2013 but the MoD were not keen to give up the land.

Councillor Ron Woodley, deputy leader of the council, said: “Much of Foulness is in Rochford District but we do have MoD land in Shoebury through you would still have traffic problems. That’s why we need a tram system.

“I don’t think the Mod wanted to give up the land. We could go to them about releasing the land but we can’t force them. The Government says build homes and then you have a ministry saying it won’t let us have the land.

“We have got to plough on without touching green belt at Bournes Green Chase because that is a buffer between Southend and Rochford.”

In 2013 a scheme, called One Public Estate, looked at ways councils and government departments could share or sell property they don’t need, in an effort to boost economic growth.

The scheme never saw the light of day as Mod reluctance to give up the land continued and amid fears there was insufficient infrastructure to cope with thousands of new homes.

Carol Mulroney, councillor responsible for Environment, Culture, Tourism and Planning, said: “As far as I am aware no one has approached the MoD and they haven’t approached us. It’s certainly not something that has come up but if Mr Cox wants to put forward that option he is free to do so.

“We need to look at all sites. The inspector will look at the Southend appraisal and will say have you considered every option to fulfill your housing need? We can say we have rejected it for this or that reason but we can’t say we didn’t look at it because we didn’t want it. He will just say you haven’t explored all the possibilities.”

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter