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Council bosses have signed off on the latest plans for the £500million redevelopment of Queensway which will create more than 1,600 homes spread across apartment blocks rising to 18 storeys.
The ambitious project aims to revitalise one of the most deprived areas in Southend is expected to change the face of town with the demolition of four high-rise blocks on the Queensway estate, which have become a hotspot for crime.
During a cabinet meeting on Tuesday afternoon, council leader Ian Gilbert called it “the biggest regeneration project this council has ever contemplated”.
He said: “This is a hugely complex scheme but I would like to remind people why we first started along this road when myself and my colleague at the time, Councillor Norman, started this project.
“We have an estate in centre of Southend which, whilst not all perceptions are fair, it has certainly had more than its fair share of problems over the years.
“The tower blocks while structurally sound at the moment, do not meet the modern standards we would expect of dwellings and when we originally started this we did a considerable amount of work about whether there were option for refurbishment or demolishing and starting again.
“We decided clearly that value for money and best course for residents was to replace them.”
Cllr Gilbert added: “This scheme represents half a billion of investment coming into our local economy at the time it needs it most.”
Councillor Kevin Robinson, who oversees business, culture and tourism in the town, also praised the plans.
He said: “There are no other organisations locally that have the political and economic clout to invest half a billion into our town, so it is down to us to lead the way.
“The leadership we are showing by being committed to this will get the message across that we are also committed to redeveloping the town centre.”
The most controversial aspect of the scheme has been plans to fill in the under pass but retain the four-lane highway.
Addressing this issue directly, the council’s deputy leader Councillor Ron Woodley said: “There has been concerns from various people about removing the underpass. Let’s make this perfectly clear. We have got surface roads which are four lanes coming all the way from the A127 right the way through on Victoria Avenue and then down Queensway after the underpass.
“It has been said this will cause carnage. Well we haven’t got carnage on any of the other four lane roads that we’ve got and at the end of the Queensway we’ve got single lane traffic so do we want to keep rushing to nowhere or do we want a planned travel programme that enables smooth running of traffic through our town.”
The first tower to come down will be Quantock sometime in 2023 as construction is completed on the first set of homes which will be located on the temporary Essex Street car park.
The residents of Quantock will then have the option to move into those new properties and pay the same level of rent as they do now.