TENANTS living in Southend’s crumbling town centre tower blocks may be added to the council house waiting list when they are demolished.

The £300million Queensway regeneration will see the troubled Pennine, Malvern, Chiltern, and Quantock flats knocked down and replaced with new homes and shops. Tenants will be rehomed as part of the phased rebuild.

Southend Council’s housing register currently has about 2,000 households waiting for homes - but this is set to rise. The authority says tenants who want to move away from the Queensway estate ahead of the start of work will be added to the list - and they will be given priority over those already waiting.

Ann Holland, councillor responsible for for culture, tourism and the economy and deputy leader of the council, said: “We are hoping that people will only have to move once. We have to give these people priority. They have to be rehoused and the only way we can do this is to give them priority on the list or it will hold everything up.

“Hopefully, not too many will decide to move out at once . In the long run we are going to improve the situation. We will have more places in the long run. Sometimes you have just got to do these things.

“We might, for example, have people who have got family in Shoebury and might want to move there. We’ve been building homes there.

“Most boroughs in the country have the same housing problem but this is a really big scheme that will improve things.”

Mike Smith, secretary of the Queensway Residents Association, said: “There has to be somewhere else for people to move to. The council has made it quite clear that some people might not want to stay on the Queensway estate. Others might not be happy about the noise and disruption of the building work so they are giving them the offer of moving out permanently and they will be a priority on the waiting list.

“I don’t know anyone at the moment who wants to move. Even if they start to build on the car park in Essex Street next year, it will be another two years before anyone is asked to move.

“I expect some will want to move before then but if they do move they will free up places that will evenutally be available on Queensway. I know we do have a big waiting list already though.”

Southend Council is currently looking for a private partner to help it deliver the largest building project in the town centre for decades.

The authority plans to purchase 53 privately owned flats within the tower blocks, but demolition notices are about to be issued which will prevent any further sales to tenants. Some 72 retail and residential units within the Queensway development area could also be compulsory purchased to make way for new housing, shops and landscaping.

The estate will have a mix of low and medium rise buildings.