Southend Council could manage new Roots Hall housing development

Southend Council could enter into a deal that would see them managing a major new housing development on Roots Hall.

The ambitious plans to build to 500 homes on the site of the Roots Hall stadium were unveiled last month and are expected to move forward if Southend United successfully gains planning permission to build a 21,000-seat stadium as Fossetts Farm.

To help fund the development, senior councillors are considering entering into a deal with potential developer Citizen Housing in order to purchase a lease of the site. While this is likely to come at a significant cost to the council, it would mean they would take on a management role and retain all income earned through properties which are rented out on the site.

Furthermore, once the leasehold term comes to an end, the council will gain full ownership of the development along with all future income for the price of £1.

Details of the deal remain vague as plans for Roots Hall are still being refined but it is expected that 170 of the 500 homes will be affordable housing, with up to 100 social rented properties among them.

Members of the council’s cabinet will discuss the possible deal during a cabinet meeting held on Tuesday and they are expected to recommend that officers continue assessing how it will impact the council’s finances.

The meeting will also include a discussion purchasing 16 private properties that can be converted into social housing, three of which have already bought and another 13 are under offer.

In total they are expected to cost £4.14million financed through money from the right-to-buy scheme, that allowed council house tenants to purchase their homes, and through reserves in the council’s Housing Revenue Account – a pot of money used for managing housing revenue and expenditure.

They are expected to create a “revolving investment fund” where the profit generated through renting the properties is used to finance a range other housing projects, including more council homes.

Similar plans could see 24 flats built on the Ilfracombe Avenue car park in Southchurch and revenue from that development being used to carry out the refurbishment of Southchurch Library.

Leader of the council, Councillor Ian Gilbert, said: “As part of our joint administration agreement, we promised to provide new social housing and key worker housing as a priority. I am delighted that, just a few weeks later we have already bought three properties, have a further 13 under offer and are already in a position to consider rigorous proposals towards delivering that very important promise.

“I am also pleased to announce that we have already identified families in temporary accommodation who will be in a position to move into their new homes before Christmas.

“Southend is among the least affordable places to live in the UK when you consider the average local wage against the average property rental price. At the same time, the demand for truly affordable housing continues to exponentially outstrip supply.”

Steve Shaw

Local Democracy Reporter