New Southend Council administration hopes to resurrect stalled Queensway scheme

Southend City Council’s new Labour-led administration says it is determined to press ahead with the £575million Better Queensway scheme despite a series of setbacks.

The scheme, to demolish four city centre tower blocks and build 1,700 new homes, shops, and cafes, hit the buffers when Sanctuary Housing announced it no longer wished to go ahead with it.

The then Conservative administration said it would take the whole scheme back to the drawing board, risking further years of delays.

However, the new Labour-led joint administration says it will stick to the original plan – first proposed in 2014.

Ian Gilbert councillor responsible for regeneration, major projects and regulatory services, said: “I believe the scheme that we had and the plan that was put forward and received planning permission is a good scheme.

“We have to acknowledge the world has changed financially. The financial climate has completely changed since we did the original agreement with Swan so it will take time to find new delivery mechanisms.”

Cllr Gilbert said the new administration was “still getting to grips” with running the council. He added: “There may have to be adjustments to the scheme. We’re in our first few weeks and just in the process of getting to grips with this. There may have to be changes in how the scheme is delivered but fundamentally we want to press on.

“We will need a new delivery mechanism and whether that means different phasing or the right elements that the council can deliver or whether the partnership approach is still the right one, I’m not really able to commit to that. Over the summer we will be able to publish a further update with a comprehensive way forward for the development.”

The project aims to “transform the area of central Southend into a vibrant new community with high-quality housing and outdoor space”.

Council leader Daniel Cowan added: “The ideal situation would be to find a new partner and deliver as much of the scheme as set out in the planning permission and we’ll just have to see what the market says.

“We would prefer to deliver the scheme that we have on the table but if we have to pivot at some time in the future and deliver something else we need to be open to that. The most important thing is that we deliver the long-awaited regeneration of this area for the residents who live there.”

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter