No extra parking for Seaway as Southend leisure development faces looming deadline

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Council leaders have insisted that no additional parking will be added to the Seaway leisure development because the project has entered its “eleventh hour”.

Conservative councillors have been urging members of the administration to boost parking spaces at the proposed leisure centre from 555 to more than 700 after admitting that they had made mistakes while negotiating a contract with the developer.

But members of Southend’s coalition administration have slammed their rivals for “playing politics” with the issue.

While the Conservatives were in charge of the council they voted in favour of extending an agreement with developer Turnstone, which stated that they would be required to have planning permission for the scheme by December of this year.

When the leadership of the council changed hands from the Tories to a Labour-led coalition, the Conservatives said they had made a mistake and the agreement should include more parking spaces.

Speaking at a meeting on Thursday night, council leader Councillor Ian Gilbert said it was “not the point” to be asking for a contract to be renegotiated.

He said: “This really is the eleventh hour for this scheme. To quote a prime minister you might say it is ‘do or die’.

“It really is too late at this point to actually start talking about renegotiating a contract that was signed in February, whatever the intentions, whatever people thought of that original decision and there mixed feelings across the chamber it is now not possible. We have to deal with this through the planning process.”

His comments came after Liberal Democrat Councillor Peter Wrexham slammed the Conservatives for demanding the extra parking, calling it “nonsense”

He said: “This whole scenario seems to be that the minute they lost control of the council they have now gone completely the other way. They are coming in with all the things that they refused to do in the first place.

“It is getting absolutely silly. It is appalling the way the opposition are working. We’ve got Trump in America, Boris in London and now we’ve got this lot down here.”

Conservative councillor David Garston, hit back at members of the administration, accusing them of attacking his party for raising concerns.

“The method of lowering the debate to the gutter has been obvious tonight,” said Mr Garston.

“All we are getting is attacked. Members genuinely thought this would be for the good of the town and that is all this is.

“It’ll affect the town, could be for the better, could be for the worse but this thing of one person attacking us then another – the public will be watching and saying how low can Southend get.”

The plans for the Seaway leisure centre are expected to be discussed at a Development Control meeting before Christmas.

Steve Shaw

Local Democracy Reporter

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