Queensway development hangs in the balance as Sanctuary decision delayed until spring

Queensway residents fear the £575million overhaul of the area will not go ahead after being hit by yet another delay to the project.

Yesterday, it was revealed that a crunch decision on whether the redevelopment scheme in Southend will go ahead will not be taken until spring next year.

Southend Council’s shareholder board heard that Sanctuary Housing’s takeover of Swan Housing is due to be completed by November 30 but Sanctuary will then carry out a painstaking audit of the scheme before deciding whether it will back it financially.

If Sanctuary doesn’t back the scheme, which includes the demolition of four tower blocks and the building of 1,170 new homes, it will delay the scheme for years.

Cash-strapped Swan, a partner with Porter’s Place LLP alongside Southend Council to deliver the ten-year scheme, was due to be taken over by the Orbit Group in October but it failed at the last minute due to Swan’s financial status.

Now, Queensway residents have lost all confidence that the project will happen.

Resident Mike Smith said: “Everybody is quite resigned to it now. It’s an ongoing thing that never gets resolved. Up until last Christmas we were all looking forward to it going ahead but now we don’t know what’s going on. I get the feeling maybe it won’t happen at all.”

Speaking at the meeting yesterday Meg Davidson, Conservative councillor for Prittlewell Ward said: “It’s clear that Swan are in a worst position than we realised. What if Sanctuary doesn’t carry on?

“It was stated that the Sanctuary takeover would seek to achieve some very specific objectives but it’s really to safeguard the core business of Swan and ensure their financial solvency so it’s a really touch and go situation.”

At the meeting councillors were recommended to approve the new takeover.

Emma Lindsell, director of regeneration and growth, told councillors if Sanctuary’s business plan was found to be unacceptable to the council then it could legally withdraw from the partnership.

Withdrawing from the partnership alternative plans would be costly, according to the council’s finance director Joe Chesterton.

He said: “We won’t know until spring but if we do have to follow any of those approaches they will be extremely expensive and would put massive delay into any new housing on that site for a number of years but we are not at the position yet.”

Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter