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Town's tower could come down
SOUTHEND Council is considering demolishing four notorious town centre tower blocks that have dominated the skyline for half a century.
Councillors and town planners have held behind-the-scenes talks over flattening the Queensway Estate, which houses more than 600 people, in a major revamp of the heart of Southend, the Echo can reveal.
Quantock, the 16-storey block of flats in Chichester Road, could be redeveloped first as the former QueenswayHouse, next door, has already been cleared.
The Echo understands this first step could happen in just 18 months.
Ian Gilbert, deputy leader of Southend Council, said: “The council is looking at a number of options for the Queensway site. We have not made a decision.
“Obviously there is the land vacant where Queensway House used to be. That’s definitely a development site we are looking at.
“At the same time we can look at the future of the town blocks.”
A year-long study into Southend’s social housing led by David Norman, the senior Labour councillor now responsible for housing, recommended the tower blocks be gutted, refurbished or demolished and rebuilt.
Mr Norman and St Luke’s councillors Brian Ayling and Paul Van Looy have called for round-the-clock security at the tower blocks, which are plagued by antisocial behaviour.
Any revamp of the three blocks north of Queensway, Malvern, Pennine and Chilton, would be several years away, but the vacant Queensway House site makes Quantock ripe for faster redevelopment.
Leaked emails suggest the authority will redevelop the tower blocks between the first and second wave of new council houses it is planning.
The joint administration is planning to build Southend’s first council housing since 1989 on under-used council-owned garages in Shoebury. If successful, more could be built on three more sites in Southend, Eastwood and Leigh.
Replacement social housing would be needed as about 1,550 people are already on the waiting list, but councillors disagree about whether it would be built on the Queensway site.
No demolition would start until all tenants were found new homes, with the Southchurch Mews development in Southchurch Road offering a possible alternative.
The Guinness Trust housing association expects to complete 22 two and three-bedroom flats and 26 three-bedroom houses on the site of the former Maybrook Training Centre and Burland House by next March.
The council hopes derelict office blocks in Victoria Avenue may also be redeveloped as social housing.
Mr Gilbert, who represents Victoria ward, in which Quantock lies, said: “Whatever we do, it’s not going to be rushed.
"Any options are going to be complex.”