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Council to pay £3m to buy back two Southend car parks
CONCERNED council chiefs will spend nearly £3million to stop two car parks falling into the hands of private developers.
Tory leaders at Southend Council agreed to pay to buy back Alexandra Street and Clarence Road car parks from the Homes and Communities Agency.
The land was sold to the Government quango in 2008, after it revealed plans to build a market and shopping complex on the sites. But the proposals collapsed in the recession and council bosses now fear, if the car parks are sold on the open market, they could be snapped up by developers seeking to cram in as many homes as possible.
Council leader Nigel Holdcroft said: “The funds for the development of the sites are no longer available. “For this reason, we are keen to get them back, so we can pursue their regeneration with another partner, rather than allow them to enter into private ownership.”
The agency, previously English Partnership, dished out millions of pounds towards major regeneration projects under the Labour Government.
Its vision for the car parks was a Brighton Lanes-style network of boutique shops and market stalls. It is not known how much it paid for the sites, although the council banked a total of £4.6million from selling a range of assets in 2007/08.
Bosses now hope to revive the Government scheme in a different form. Its central area action plan – a £300million blueprint for the High Street and surrounding roads – includes proposals for homes, offices and shops on the car parks.
The council hopes to team up with private developers to kickstart the idea, allowing them to build on public land, in return for a slice of the rent or lease income from developments.
Mr Holdcroft said: “If we can make a profit out of these sites, then we should do that. Rather than selling the land we own, we should think about how we can make it work for us.”