Seaway a “dead duck” from the start says Southend businessman

Councillors should never have backed the “dead duck” Seaway scheme, a leading Southend businessman has claimed.

Adventure Island owner Phil Miller yesterday questioned the cost to council tax payers of pressing ahead with the scheme that was judged to be financially unviable without council help.

He said: “It was always a dead duck from the off. Trouble was councillors and officers got a bit too close to the applicants and believed the line of treacle they were given.

“Its cost us the taxpayers a small fortune in wasted fees and time.

“Councils are not geared up to be businessmen. Committees cannot run anything other than what they know and what they are well practised at, social services, planning, education parks and gardens etc they do very well overall in fact.”

Mr Miller added: “They are just not entrepreneurs nor should they try to be. Just look at Thurrock Council and see what’s happened there?

“It’s all so different when it’s someone else’s money.”

Despite the scheme including 555 public car parking spaces, Southend seafront traders were particularly aggrieved at a net loss of parking spaces once the 650-space Lucy Road car park was developed.

They maintained parking spaces were already at a premium on hot summer days when crowds descended on the city and fewer spaces could deter visitors.

The opening of the temporary gas works car park on Eastern Esplanade did little to placate them.

Paul Thompson, owner of the Pebbles One café on Western Esplanade said: “Several years ago commercial banks deemed the scheme unviable, that’s still the case and it won’t change. Turnstone have continually let down Southend Council.

“The council should build a two-storey, 1,500 space car park with 250 sea view flats above on the Seaway site.”

Denise Rossiter, chief executive of the Essex Chamber of Commerce, added: “Right from the first announcement of the Seaway proposals we have had concerns about not just the actual scheme itself but about the funding of what is a considerable leisure project for Southend and its environs.

“As far back as the public inquiry Turnstone were being pretty opaque about where the money to build it was coming from.

“We know from talking to our members that the economy has still not fully recovered from the hit of the pandemic so the news that Turnstone have deferred the start date of the scheme until the economy is stronger comes as no surprise.”

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter