Protestors take to Southend High Street

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Campaigners from across Essex took to Southend High Street on Saturday to protest about a lack of affordable homes.

Fossetts for the People and housing campaigners from Unite Community joined a national day of awareness to collect signatures for a petition to Rochford and Southend East MP, James Duddridge, and Southend West MP Sir David Amess.

The petition highlights the half a million empty properties across the country that could be put to better use and a lack of social housing.

Martin Berry, Labour councillor for St Luke’s ward was at the protest representing Fossetts for the People. He said: “The Fossetts For The People campaign is to have some social housing built on the Government owned land opposite the new football stadium to the north of the town.

“This land used to belong to Southend Hospital. The Government still owns it. They’re looking to sell it to the highest private bidder. What could happen with it instead is it could be transferred to Southend Council who would be willing to build social housing on it.

“The Government’s looking, on their application, for 131 “executive homes”. That’s going to be large houses that local people don’t need, and can’t afford. We could build three times that number of decent and sustainable social housing, and that could, almost at a stroke, knock about a third off the council housing waiting list. We could do with the support of the town’s two MPs – so far that has not been forthcoming.”

Cllr Berry added: “We’ve got enough luxury flats, luxury houses being built, they’re bringing in people from outside the town. What we need here, is housing for the people who already live here.”

Basildon councillor Elaine McDonald attended as a representative of Unite Community, She said: “Most of my casework is around housing. We’ve got probably about 1,500 applications on the housing register at the moment. The council’s doing everything that they can, but the Government are just not providing the resources for councils to make the provision that we need.

“We need to stop allowing big developers to take over our towns, making profits by building unaffordable homes, or offering homes for shared ownership which is a financial trap, and what we need to do, we need the Government to invest in council housing across the board.”

Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter