A SENIOR councillor wants to help young people build new businesses in Southend by offering vacant spaces at the Victoria Shopping Centre to start-ups.

Since it was bought by Southend Council in 2021, the High Street shopping centre has struggled to bring in income and has a number of empty shops.

Three spaces at the centre are set to be refurbished “later this year”, and the councillor responsible wants to let them to “small start-ups” on short-term leases.

The spaces, opposite Indirock on the first floor of the shopping centre, could be offered out for short-term leases via a bidding process.

Colin Campbell, Conservative councillor responsible for economic growth and investment, said: “It’s quite daunting and off-putting to sign a lease for a year or longer.

“This proposal means people can start a business safely without a four-year lease, so if they do struggle, they’re not stuffed.

“As a young person, I’m quite interested in young entrepreneurs. They need a safe place to trial owning their own business.

“I’m hoping bidding will open this year. I’d love to see the first business open by the end of the year.”

He added: “It’s a good way of getting people involved in starting a business. Crucially, local people will benefit.”

Mr Campbell admits his proposal would not make the centre profitable, but it would benefit the city “in the long-term”.

He said: “This is more to help fertilise new businesses to help grow the Southend economy.

Meanwhile, we’re focusing on the bigger units like Next and New Look for profit generation. I know it’s an outrageous thing to say in politics, but we’re looking at the long term.”

In addition to start-ups taking up the smaller spaces, Mr Campbell wants to use bigger ones - like the former Argos store - to benefit the community.

He said: “We can make it a hub, where officers from each council department’s customer-facing teams can speak to residents face-to-face.

“This would open up access to council teams, to show it’s not just a faceless machine behind the emails.”

Ahead of the elections in May, Mr Campbell insists whoever is in charge next should back his shopping centre plans.

He added: “It’s good for the community. It doesn’t matter what colour council brings it in.”