BATTLE lines have been drawn over controversial plans to transform the town centre...with Blues boss Ron Martin claiming they will jeopardise the proposed new stadium and cripple seafront parking .

The Southend Area Action Plan, which will shape the town centre landscape for decades to come, is set to be scrutinised by a planning inspector next week.

Southend United boss Ron Martin is among those objecting to a major development of the Seaway car park, near Southend seafront, which forms a major part of the plans.

He is joined by seafront traders and Philip Miller, from the Stockvale Group, which owns Adventure Island and Southend Sealife Adventure.

Mr Martin is in final discussions with Southend Council planners over his application for a new 21,000-seat stadium at Fossetts Farm, in Eastern Avenue. It will also include a 12-screen cinema, hotel, 160 flats and a retail complex.

It comes as Cambridge-based Turnstone Estates is planning a £50million leisure park on the Seaway site, off Lucy Road, Southend - which has been criticised over the loss of valuable parking space. It will also include a cinema, alongside restaurants and bars.

In his submission to inspector Mike Fox, Mr Martin’s planning agent Mary Power,

director of Power Haus Consultancy Ltd, said: “Given the proposals for Southend United at Fossetts Farm, it remains questionable whether Seaway car park could be viably delivered where there is a clear need made in the Stockvale representations to retain and if not increase existing parking levels in the town.

“It is highly unlikely that a further cinema use could be accommodated in the town with the prospect of a new cinema at Fossetts Farm. This could therefore lead to the site being undeliverable and therefore unjustified for development.”

SK Architects, acting for the Stockvale Group, also objected to the plan. Its submission reads: “Southend Council has failed to recognise the difference between tourism and leisure and indeed the importance of access and easy parking in close proximity to the central Seafront for the tourist economy day visitor customer base.

“The council has identified a number of the surface car parks for redevelopment with a principle of no net loss of car parking spaces, however, this has been made clear through consultation that this a standstill position which will not encourage any further re-investment and growth in the tourist economy.”

Paul Thompson, chairman of the Seafront Traders’ Association, added: “On busy days, warm sunny days, there is already a massive shortage of parking spaces and congestion results as cars are continually circulating looking for spaces. Visitors vow not to return as it can take hours to enter the town and get parked. Traffic jams back up along the A127 and many cars turn around and go elsewhere.”

THE man in charge of the borough’s roads has defended the Southend Area Action Plan - but admits there is room for improvement on parking.
Tony Cox, councillor responsible for transport, said: “We have increased spaces in the last year. Last week we did a walk round with seafront traders to find additional spaces. We took out some underused yellow lines and rejigged some parking bays to provide extra capacity.

“The plans are going through a judicial inquiry at the moment but I have always been clear that if the Seaway development comes along, there does need to be increased parking provision to what was originally signed off.”

Mr Cox added: “We need to increase parking capacity full stop and that is something that I am pushing for.”