THE leader of Southend Council said a charity’s attempts to build new a £15million hospice on green belt have upset the very supporters it relies on for funding.

Nigel Holdcroft said the dispute over a second application by Havens Hospices to build a 16-bed hospice on land off Belton Way West had bitterly divided opinion among a large proportion of its own supporters.

He said: “I think it is disappointing because there is a divergence of opinion over this application. A substantial number of people feel very upset about it.
“The organisation depends on massive public support and unfortunately they are putting themselves in a position where they are clearly upsetting and causing distress to a significant number of residents. That is something I flagged up at the first application.”

Havens withdrew its first application last year when it became clear it was likely to be turned down. The charity looked at and rejected more than 200 alternative sites, including land it owns at Little Havens children’s hospice in Thundersley, in favour of the Leigh site. A subsequent public consultation left feelings running high among supporters and those bitterly opposed to the loss of green belt.

Andy Smith, chief executive of Havens Hospices, said: “We are surprised to hear that the leader of Southend Council has commented on our plans in the way he has.”

Mr Smith added: “In possibly the largest petition Southend Council has ever received, 17,000 people expressed their support for our plans to build a new hospice on that site.

They also received over 1,100 letters of support from local residents who want to see the hospice built on that site. Only 230 letters were received in opposition.”

The application is up for decision by the development control committee on Wednesday, October 17.