Southend estate regeneration facing delay days after announcement that work would start within weeks

A major Southend regeneration scheme could be delayed by another nine months – just days after council bosses said it was set to begin “within weeks”.

The £575million Queensway regeneration scheme is expected to feature 1,760 new homes, as well as new shops and cafes.

But developers are set to ask councillors for a nine-month extension, submitting a report blaming the pandemic for causing a shortage of supplies of building materials, as well as the war in Ukraine.

Councillor Tony Cox, leader of the Conservative group at Southend Council, said: “This raises alarm bells over the financial viability of the scheme. It always was marginal in terms of affordability.

“This will delay it because there can be no building or closure of the underpass. If the extension is agreed they will be able to progress the reserved matters planning applications but they won’t be able to put a spade in the ground.”

The scheme is being led The Porters Place Southend-on-Sea LLP, a partnership between Southend Council and Swan Housing.

Councillors already agreed to extend the deadline last year on the proviso that, if a complete business plan was not produced by March, work on the project would halt.

The partnership now wants until December 31 to prove the project is viable. It comes as Swan’s financial viability and governance has been downgraded by the regulator of social housing, and, as it is about to be taken over by the Orbit Group.

The scheme is expected to take place over several stages. During the first phase the Queensway estate underpass will be filled in and a new four-lane road created, which will eventually thread through new tower blocks.

Once the first new tower block is built, demolition work will start on the dilapidated old high rises.

Councillors on the shareholder board are set to discuss the request for a delay.

Council leader Ian Gilbert said: “We are whole-heartedly committed to delivering the much-needed regeneration of the Queensway estate. Undoubtedly the economic circumstances are challenging for the construction industry and therefore we need to proceed carefully.

“Work will continue by extending the existing budget period we have to the end of the year, while we, as a partnership, carefully monitor the construction industry and rising costs.”

A spokeswoman for Swan Housing confirmed work on Queensway is “expected to start in late 2022”.

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter