Special council meeting to debate ‘under threat’ Queensway scheme

Southend Labour councillors have called for a special meeting to discuss the future of the “under threat” £600 million Queensway regeneration project.

Former council leader Ian Gilbert has called for an extraordinary council meeting to discuss the Tory administration’s plans to scrap filling in the Queensway underpass, which Labour says puts the whole project in jeopardy.

The council is waiting to hear whether Sanctuary Housing, which took over Swan Housing, the council’s partner in the project, will back the 10-year scheme that will deliver 1,700 new homes following the demolition of four dilapidated tower blocks.

Cllr Gilbert said: “Better Queensway is a hugely important development for the city.

“A huge amount of work has already been done on it. It’s got outline planning permission. We are waiting for Sanctuary to reassess the scheme but the council’s position should be that we want it to carry on developing it in line with what’s already been agreed.

“Nobody has ever been able to produce a viable scheme which doesn’t involve those road changes. In the procurement process that was done entirely under the Conservatives, the only option that came forward was this one.

“It’s already been agreed cross party at development control that it’s acceptable in traffic terms so it’s absolutely ridiculous to let this stand in its way. It also undermines confidence in the council when we are prepared to go back on something we’ve already agreed on a number of times.

Council leader Tony Cox said: “We agreed the preferred partner. The plans that went through development control were on Ian Gilbert’s watch. They increased the number of social housing and the plans that went through were theirs.

“Ian Gilbert was the portfolio holder for housing and he was also the leader. He’s the one who closed the Queensway underpass.

“He’s the one that had a scheme that had marginal affordability – not me, and not the Conservatives.”

Cllr Cox added: “This is about people having access to quality housing. The housing I still support and the regeneration of the Queensway area I still support. There still needs to be a scheme that provides better housing for those who live in those blocks. The plans that were produced were not our plans.

The extraordinary meeting will be held on June 29 at 6.30pm at the civic centre.

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter