Queensway residents up in the air over regeneration project

A £575MILLION Southend regeneration project will transform people’s lives, and should not be allowed to become a political football.

That is the stark warning from residents after reports that Swan Housing, Southend Council’s chosen partner on the Queensway regeneration scheme, could be facing difficulties after Government inspectors reported a “material deterioration in Swan’s financial position”.

It had previously emerged the scheme currently has borderline profitability for Swan Housing.

Conservative councillors believe the report cast doubt over the project – but residents living in dilapidated high rise blocks which are due for demolition say that people should come first.

Mike Smith, 71, of Malvern flats who runs the I Love Queensway Estate group on Facebook, said: “It seems to me they are just trying to undermine the council leadership. I’m surprised they are not supporting it more since it is one of the biggest projects in decades. This has been going on since 2014 and now, when work is about to start, this happens.

“Residents are sitting here wondering what’s going to happen because of these endless delays. It’s atrocious. It’s all about party politics. Residents want to see all of the council behind it not working to disrupt it.”

Mr Smith added: “If Swan pulls out we will be wondering what’s going to happen to us. It’s the worst time for the scheme to be questioned. We were looking to forward to a new year and work actually starting and now we are worrying we will be back to square one. It’s playing with people’s lives.”

The scheme will involve the demolition of four tower blocks and raising the underpass to provide a four-lane boulevard.

Cllr Tony Cox, leader of the Conservative group, said: “While we might have reservations about the underpass, we 100 per cent support the housing element and we would see that through. But we can’t plough on if the company can’t deliver.

“That doesn’t mean we would throw the baby out with the bath water. We would get someone else to do it. We are talking about a half a billion pound scheme and we have to be diligent with council tax payers’ money.”

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter