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A £500million plan to redevelop Southend’s Queensway estate is seen as one of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken by the council and residents say they are hopeful it will give them a safer place to live.
Alexandra Waite, 34, moved to the Chiltern tower block at Queensway in 2011 after becoming a victim of the spiralling crime in the city.
However, her escape was short lived as the subsequent eight years has seen the gang-related violence spread beyond London’s borders and onto the streets of her new town.
She said: “I moved here eight years ago after becoming a victim of crime and at first there wasn’t much here in terms of gang violence but over the last couple of years, I’ve heard a shooting happen on the street outside and there has been a stabbing which left our hallways covered in blood.
“A friend of mine had people trying to get in their flat and we’ve had rough sleepers sleeping inside the blocks. It can take security about an hour to get here.”
She went on to explain that the difficult living conditions could all be solved if Southend Council and their development partner Swan Housing are able to turn their plans to regenerate the Queensway estate into a reality.
“The designs show that there is a concierge and security on site. For us residents this the main thing – it will help reduce anti-social behaviour and increase security.”
The council claims they are putting “people at the heart of regeneration”, with the existing tower blocks being demolished and replaced with around 1,650 new properties, including more than 500 affordable homes.
Those already living in the tower blocks will be offered a tenancy on the same terms and conditions as their previous tenancy, including the same rent levels, and crucially the homes will be more secure.
Another Chiltern resident, Alrita Hyre, 55, echoed the comments made by Mrs Waite and said her biggest concern was having a safe place to live.
She said: “I am really up for this regeneration it is really needed. Right now, there is no security, anyone can get in. All they have to do is press a buzzer and be let in or the doors will be broken and they can just let themselves in.
“It will also be nice just to have a new property. The current places are pre-war flats with a lot of damp and a lot of mould.”
Council leader Ian Gilbert, who oversees housing in the borough, said he believes the scheme will make a “huge difference” to residents’ quality of life.
He said: “The idea of a concierge service is something we have spoken about and I think there is a real commitment to provide that but as with anything the exact details of how it might work have not been fully worked up yet. It is definitely something we want to see.”
Councillor Martin Terry, who oversees public protection, added: “The safety side of this is of primary importance and that is part of the thinking. We want to provide decent, affordable and safe housing.
“Queensway is your typical 1960s-era Soviet era concrete estate that doesn’t lend itself to community safety and we have had issues of county lines in the area so having an estate that is fit for purpose will no doubt reduce anti-social behaviour.”