Southend Tories call for a rethink of Seaway Leisure development after reveal of Gasworks housing plan

THE £50m cinema and leisure scheme planned for Southend seafront must be considered again over the potential loss of car parks, Tories say.

The plan to transform the Seaway car park, off Lucy Road, into a leisure complex has been in the pipeline for years and many hoped it would secure planning permission by the end of the year.

But the entire project could be in jeopardy after it was revealed that the council carried out a study looking at building homes on three large town centre car parks, including the nearby former gasworks site.

Seaway Leisure plans have hinged on the gasworks site being expanded as a car park and taking on the additional pressures.

However, throughout discussions councillors say they were unaware the council was also exploring the possibility of building homes there.

The Secretary of State – who is set to make a final decision on the plan – was also unaware of the possibility and the Conservatives are now urging the council to inform him as soon as possible.

Cllr Tony Cox, leader of the Conservatives, said: “The council needs to formally tell the secretary of state that it had been actively looking at this.

“This boils down to a matter of trust in the administration.

“We need to know the information we are getting is accurate so that we can make informed decisions when we scrutinise these things.

“I have repeatedly said that if members are to make decisions they need to be in full possession of the facts.

“But it seems like here we are being asked to find clues and codes in the decisions the council makes as though we are reading the Da Vinci Code.”

He added councillors must be told the “full truth” of what the administration has planned for gasworks before any decision can be made on Seaway.

The council’s deputy leader, Cllr Ron Woodley, oversees transport in the borough and insisted the administration has no plans to build on the Gasworks car park, explaining that this was “just a feasibility study”.

He said: “We don’t need to inform the Secretary of State because this was simply an investigation by the housing team and there is no way that I would build on that car park, end of story. Everything is as it was previously stated.”

He added he would welcome further discussion about the issue at an upcoming full council meeting but building on gasworks “is not the intention of this administration”.

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Steve Shaw

Local Democracy Reporter