Queensway regeneration company fined for late filing of accounts

THE firm behind the £575 million regeneration of Queensway in Southend has been fined for filing its accounts nearly five months after the deadline.

Porters Place LLP, a company set up by Southend Council and Swan Housing to deliver the 1,760-home project, is also under the spotlight due to claims last-minute changes made to the accounts were not properly shared with councillors, who have expressed concern about the viability of the Queensway project.

The scheme has suffered a series of setbacks in recent years, including the COVID pandemic, rising costs and Swan’s financial difficulties which have resulted in the company being taken over by the Orbit Group.

Southend Council’s people scrutiny committee met last week to look at the takeover.
At the meeting, it was revealed the council’s shareholder board had been kept in the dark about some aspects of the scheme’s viability.

Meg Davidson, Conservative councillor for Prittlewell, said: “We weren’t given any information on some quite important changes that took place in March when the shareholder board and cabinet approved the draft statement of accounts.

“We were told that we were just in time to meet the deadline at the end of March and then it turns out that actually the accounts didn’t get filed until August 19 so they were nearly five months overdue and I understand that would have incurred a £750 fine for late filing.”

Cllr Davidson told the committee a draft report on the scheme was much more optimistic than a final version which hadn’t been flagged up to the shareholder board.

Ron Woodley, Independent councillor for Thorpe, called for the scheme to be referred back to cabinet.

He said: “Swan Housing is no longer viable. The cost of living crisis has changed dramatically. The makeup of the homes on this site may not be now viable in terms of its use and the residents of this town.

“I’m afraid we have lost our way on this development.”

The regeneration will see the demolition of four crumbling tower blocks and the raising of the Queensway underpass, along with the addition of shops.

Ian Gilbert, councillor responsible for economic recovery, regeneration and housing said: “I appreciate frustration with the delays but this is half a billion regeneration project.

“We always envisaged change over the course of that plan.

“The need for this scheme has not gone away.”

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter