Stalled Queensway project leaves residents in ‘limbo’

Frustrated tenants say they are living in limbo as uncertainty continues over the stalled £575million Queensway regeneration scheme in Southend.

Southend City Council has insisted it is committed to the future of the project, which would have seen the four dilapidated tower blocks demolished and replaced with new homes.

But with major concerns over how the project will be funded, and when progress will be made, residents are facing an uncertain future.

Malvern tower block resident Mike Smith said Queensway residents are facing an uncertain future, with doubts around when and if the tower blocks will go.

He said: “As a leaseholder I feel that I couldn’t sell my flat if I wanted to now. I’d like to decorate my flat but I’m thinking why should I put the money and the effort in if it’s going to come down in a few years? If you want to get a new boiler that’s a big investment. The delays put people off doing anything.”

Tony Cox, Tory leader of Southend Council, has insisted the original scheme “was not deliverable” and a new plan that “is affordable”.

Southend Housing – the council’s own company – is now set to be a partner in Porters Place LLP, which was set up by the council to deliver the 1,700-home scheme.

The move leaves Southend Council as the sole “owner” of the project and follows the departure of Swan and Sanctuary housing associations as former partners.

A new partner for Porters Place LLP needed to be found by May, or it would have been dissolved and the work lost. However, it is understood Southend Housing is unlikely to be able to have the finance to take the scheme forward.

Labour leader Daniel Cowan said: “I think long-term we need to focus on finding a delivery partner so that we can get spades in the ground and start to actually deliver on the long-term promise the council has made to the city.

“If this is one step in the right direction towards that journey then we support it but ultimately what we need to be finding is people who have the finance, the experience and the capital to actually start to deliver this programme and not let it drag on. Right now people living on the Queensway Estate are in limbo.”

Cllr Cox said Homes England cash was being sought and the council still has £4.2million South East Local Enterprise Partnership money, adding: “The scheme wasn’t deliverable.

It was always marginal affordability right from the start. Now we’ve got to get something that’s affordable.”

Asked if that would mean scaling back the project, Cllr Cox said: “We’re going to have to look at all those things.”

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter