Seaway costs now at £70million as council maintains work will begin next year

THE cost of the Seaway Leisure scheme in Southend has jumped by another £20million, taking the total to an eye-watering £70million.

Despite increased costs, the council has insisted it is confident that work will start in spring next year.

Southend’s cabinet is poised to sign off on drawing up new legal documents which will kickstart a marketing campaign for the leasing of units on Turnstone Leisure’s complex on the Lucy Road car park.

The scheme, which includes an Imax cinema, restaurants and a hotel is being backed by £10million council funding which won’t be released until it is deemed financially viable.

This will include when Turnstone has signed up at least 70 per cent of the units.

A report to cabinet, which will meet on Friday, follows a decision in November to put an annuity lease structure in place with Turnstone, to fund the development.

It recommends that a new set of documents will be more attractive to investors.

Ian Gilbert, councillor responsible for economic recovery, regeneration and housing, said: “This update report shows how this important project is now moving forwards and demonstrates that despite rising inflation and costs, the private sector and Turnstone are still committed to this project that will deliver a year-round destination in our new city, create new jobs, encourage more people into our city centre and seafront, and be a major boost the local economy.”

Once the new legal framework is set up, Turnstone will invest £500,000 into the next phase of the project to attract investors.

It is hoped this will be completed by the autumn with a view to starting work on the site by the spring.

Paul Collins, councillor responsible for asset management and inward investment, said: “It shows the project is moving forwards, despite all the difficult economic circumstances and shows that this is a city to invest in.”

Opposition councillors say they will be asked to sign off on a legal agreement which they have yet to see.

Tony Cox, leader of the Conservative Group, said: “It shows what a mess the Seaway scheme is. We were told in a report the Seaway scheme was going ahead now another report says they have to get the legal documents in place first.

“They are asking us to sign off without seeing the legal document.”

Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter