The organisation representing the interests of businesses across Southend has praised the decision to remove retail space from a proposed football stadium on Fossetts Farm as it gives reassurance to businesses looking to invest in the town.
It was revealed on Thursday that Southend Council had entered into an agreement with a housing developer and Southend United Football Club to bring more than 1,300 new homes to the borough.
Up to 502 of the new houses will be built on the current Roots Hall Stadium site after the club moves to a major new stadium at Fossetts Farms, off Eastern Avenue.
Under the agreement, the planned stadium will also be surrounded by around 800 new homes which marks a significant change to an earlier proposal to build retail space and a cinema.
The idea building shops and a cinema around the stadium caused concern among many who felt it would result in businesses avoiding investment in the town centre.
One of the biggest critics of the plan was Southend BID but with the new plans announced, the chair of the organisation has enthusiastically endorsed it.
Dennis Baldry, chairman of Southend Business Improvement District (BID) said: “I think everyone in Southend would be in support of the creation of a new, fit for purpose football stadium but the issue for us at Southend BID has always been the inclusion of an out of town retail development.
“This would have undoubtedly had a negative impact on all businesses in the high street, not just retail, as spend would be diluted between the two zones.
“The indecision left businesses unable to plan for the future, but with the agreement now in place companies can now be assured that investment in their Southend high street stores would not be ill placed. This is positive news for Southend at a very challenging time.”
The stadium, which is yet to secure planning permission, will be funded by Homes England through a loan to the club on the condition that the homes will be built. The loan is still provisional at this stage and it is not clear how much the stadium will cost in total.
Southend Council will take on the lease of the rented properties and will manage them, providing a long-term source of income that will help to finance services.