Regeneration projects key to Southend’s economic recovery, claims council leader

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Major plans to transform Southend will keep moving forward despite the council facing millions of pounds in losses caused by Covid-19.

The leader of Southend Council has said regeneration schemes which include the redevelopment of the Queensway estate, a new football stadium and the Airport Business Park, will not be halted as a result of coronavirus.

The announcement comes on the same day it was revealed the pandemic could cost the council as much as £20million by the end of the year.

Labour council leader Councillor Ian Gilbert said: “We have much work to do still in terms of responding to the pandemic, which is far from over. We do also want to look forward though, to how our town and our economy can bounce back.

“The major projects we have in the pipeline as a borough, and the investment they will bring will be so important to drive economic growth, encourage inward investment, create jobs, and support and invigorate local businesses so they can recover too and become better than ever before.

“Whilst current restrictions have of course caused some unavoidable delay, our key projects are still moving forward, and they have even greater significance in the light of the sharp economic downturn.”

Prior to the outbreak of the virus, the council was rapidly pushing forward on the regeneration schemes.

Just months before the lockdown came in, plans for the future of Queensway were revealed. The £500million project is expected to change the face of Southend with up to 1,800 new homes and a total redesign of the entire estate.

Plans for a major new Southend United football stadium at Fossetts Farm were also unveiled in April revealing a modern stadium paired with more than 1,000 new homes spread across both Fossetts Farm and Roots Hall.

A detailed report published on Tuesday noted that despite the authority losing £3million every month the country is in lockdown, the ambition to deliver these schemes has “intensified”.

However, it admits the schemes will “inevitably” face delays.

It said: “Although Government advice is that construction activities should continue, works may be delayed due to the availability of labour, plant and materials and some contractors opting to cease activity for a period of time.

“There may also be additional cost pressures due to disruption of normal supply chains.

“Some projects require materials from overseas, so it is not just related to UK lockdown arrangements.

“There is also the potential for additional costs to be incurred relating to re-tendering exercises. Some seasonal dependent schemes may also miss their opportunity for completion.

“Where possible works planned to operational buildings which are currently closed will be accelerated to minimise disruption when they re-open. Re-prioritising, re-phasing and resequencing will be essential to try and maintain momentum and minimise cost increases and delays.”

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Steve Shaw

Local Democracy Reporter