Taxpayers' cash has been used to buy back a flat in a town centre tower block – years after the authority sold it off.
Southend Council has bought a private flat in the Quantock tower block, in Chichester Road, as a “business opportunity”.
The flat, sold under Right To Buy some years ago, was put back on the market in an auction – and snapped up by the previous Tory administration for £45,000.
The purchase comes as the council devises a long-term plan to redevelop the Queensway estate. Labour’s David Norman, councillor responsible for housing, said: “This was a good business opportunity for the council to purchase one of the remaining leasehold flats in this block at a reasonable price, and generate a rental income.
“We also have an eye to the future and it has been well documented we have a long-termaspiration to regenerate the Queensway area and owning as much of the asset as possible, is clearly going to help us take that forward.
“In terms of the project, I want to reiterate that there are a number of options being explored.
“We are still at the very early stages and certainly no decisions have been made. I have also made a commitment to keep residents fully informed as the project progresses.”
The property is the only one in Quantock that the council has bought back after the Eighties sale.
The council now owns 350 of the 400 flats in the block, with the others being privately owned.
A year-long study into Southend’s social housing, led by Mr Norman, concluded the tower blocks on the Queensway estate could be refurbished, gutted, or demolished and rebuilt.
Because Queensway House next door to Quantock has already been cleared, Queensway is seen as ripe for development.
If a demolition project was put forward, it could happen in 18 months.
Consultation promise - Southend Council
Housing bosses have promised to consult residents by the end of the year on Quantock’s future, but tenants are still concerned.
Southend Council wrote to all residents in the 350 councilowned flats in the tower block, in the wake of the Echo’s story earlier this month, which revealed demolition was an option.
The letter, signed by the councillor responsible for housing, David Norman, reads: “I wanted to write to you to provide you with some more information and reassure you that no decisions have been made to demolish the tower blocks and that discussions about the Queensway area are at a very early stage “All residents will be involved in the process when we have something to say or present to you. We are not yet at that stage, but expect there to be some consultation with you later this year.”
But tenants were not impressed.
Rose Chapman, 82, who has lived at Quantock for 36 years, said: “It’s worrying because it means that I could have to move, but I’ve been living her since 1978.
“We could do with a refurbishment of the tower block instead of knocking it down.
“But it feels like the council is just letting it fall by the wayside so it has an excuse to bring it down.”