A SHOPPING centre at Fossetts Farm would be "fatal" to Southend High Street, according to the town's leading retail association.

The plan for a new Southend United stadium, multiplex cinema and shopping centre has been slammed as sounding the death knell for the town centre in a document drawn up on behalf of Southend's Business Improvement District.

The BID, representing 350 businesses in the town, commissioned the report by SK Architects as a response to the Southend Central Area Action Plan, which was put together by Southend Council planners in January.

It said: “The proposed redevelopment of Roots Hall and Roots Hall Stadium are predicated on the football club relocating to Fossetts Farm with a significant volume of retail use.

“Whilst the redevelopment of these sites is supported, the retail use and volume at Fossetts Farm would see the end of the High Street as a retail offer.

“The BID most strongly opposes the Fossetts Farm proposals and any movement of retail away from the central area and town centre.”

A similar view was taken by Green Party candidate Jason Pilley in hustings held for the St Luke’s ward, which the proposed development falls under, last month.

Although the rest of the candidates present support the creation of new jobs at the proposed site, Mr Pilley said it would merely suck jobs out of the High Street, where 18 per cent of retail units are already empty.

He said: “Phil Turner, the leader of Basildon Council, talked about the impact of out of town shopping centres and used the word ‘devastating.’

“You don’t create jobs, you just move them from one place to another.”

However, Southend Council leader Ron Woodley defended the plans, adding High Street traders merely needed to adapt to changes in people’s shopping habits.

He said: “If the BID or retail area in the High Street thinks negatively like that then they will go out of business.

“I’ve had meetings with BID and High Street retailers to say that they need to think differently not because of Fossetts Farm but because of the changes in people’s shopping behaviour.

“I’ve set up a task force to work with BID, to work with officers, for a SCAAP in which we lay out plans for the High Street that makes it recession-proof, because I believe there is a major recession coming by 2020.”


Call for positivity - council leader Ron Woodley


ALTERNATIVE plans to build multi-storey car parks over Southend’s Seaway site have been welcomed by seafront traders.

Blueprints drawn up by the town's Business Improvement District include a road from the Queensway roundabout to Marine Parade, flanked by two car parks holding 1,500 cars, as well as 14 new shop units in Lucy Road.

It is in contrast to the scheme unveiled by Turnstone Estates, which was drafted in by Southend Council to create a £50million leisure complex including a cinema, which envisages large retail units and a 500-space surface car park.

The BID would prefer a larger multi-storey car park instead of the larger shops. In a document prepared by SK Architects for the BID, the association said it envisaged “a gateway in from Queensway directly off the roundabout, significantly reducing the congestion down through Southchurch Road toward the Kursaal and seafront beyond.

“Due to the topography of the Seaway car park, there is an opportunity to cut into the site and create a formal entrance that create a visual gateway as part of the access route.

“There is an opportunity to accommodate somewhere in the region of 1,500 parking spaces arranged over two to three to four floors.”

Paul Thompson, chairman of the Seafront Traders' Association has welcomed the BID's "conceptual" design.

He criticised the Turnstone proposal for building over the existing Seaway car park without providing enough alternative spaces to meet demand.

Mr Thompson said: "The Southend Central Area Action Plan is to build on seven of the borough’s car parks, of which is Seaway is the first, and it’s going to cause absolute traffic chaos.

"The council officers are pushing an anti-car agenda.

“The BID is made up of 350 businesses so their arguments are very important and they know a lot more about the town than the council officers, many of whom don’t live in the town and are never here at the weekends.

“Another 1,500 car parking spaces in Seaway is exactly what the town needs.”

Traffic consultant Mick Thwaites, speaking on behalf of Adventure Island's owners, the Stockvale Group, said the BID’s proposals would ease the congestion he witnessed over the bank holiday.

He said: “The Seaway car park was completely full, so they closed it off, which had the effect of stopping traffic all the way down to Queensway and down to Southchurch Avenue.

“Without the right infrastructure and parking, it does clog up all arterial roads into Southend very quickly and causes frustration.”

Highways councillor Martin Terry said ongoing efforts were being made to increase parking spaces and the authority was “open minded” about methods of easing congestion.


Grand plan - an impression of the Seaway development


MANY visitors to Southend do not return because traffic gridlock, Southend BID has claimed.

The BID claims Southend Council's central area action plan proposals have failed to tackle infrastructure issues, such as parking and congestion.

Its consultation response said: "Many seafront businesses have peaked in terms of visitor attraction due to the infrastructure issues.

“The highway infrastructure makes journeys into the town prolonged and difficult. Many visitors and customers simply don’t return.”

It added: “There is a view that from the Victoria Gateway junction to the Rayleigh Weir on days of high visitation and sunny days the key route is completely gridlocked between these two key points.

“This represents somewhere in the region of 3,840 cars parked nose to tail across the main artery into the town which is mainly a dual carriageway.

“Some members of the BID and representatives of the seafront businesses believe that one way in which the congestion into the town could be improved is for an additional 3,840 parking spaces to be made accessible and available within close proximity to the seafront and core high street area.”

It comes as the British Infrastructure Group, supported by the AA and the RAC, has accused councils of having an “anti-car attitude”.


THE owner of Southend’s ill-fated New Empire Theatre has considered selling it to make way for a car park.

The historic Alexandra Street building sustained serious damage following an arson attack in July, thwarting owner Richard Shea’s plans to redevelop the structure, and forcing him to put it on the market for demolition.

In a document prepared by SK Architects, the BID has suggested turning part of the redeveloped site into a car park, which it said would help ease congestion in the borough.

Architects claim the theatre's large basement provides an ideal opportunity for a public car park as part of a revamp of the site.

Mr Shea, who is considering offers above £850,000, said a car park had already been proposed by one would-be developer.

He said: “Someone has approached me already and said they would apply for a multi-storey. “We said we wanted it back as it was but the insurance company weren’t happy with certain things and haven’t given us a penny.

“It has to come down first but we’ve got four or five offers on the table.

“In a pre-application meeting with the council, they said they were happy with shops and flats, maybe they’d be happy with a car park.”