SOUTHEND Council could be liable to pay the rent on hundreds of new upmarket homes at Fossetts Farm if they fail to attract tenants, it has emerged.

A series of special meetings this month will see Southend Council sign off on a deal for 1,300 homes to be built and allow the sale of Southend United to finally be completed.

However, the finer details of the deal have revealed that if Southend Council fails to rent the homes, it will still be liable to pay rent to Thames Plaza PLC which owns the properties.

Last week, the Echo revealed that the rent on the new homes will be 20 per cent above the average in Southend and at most 15 per cent will be classed as affordable housing.

Colin Nickless, co-founder of campaign group Fossetts for the People, said: “The various parcels of land around Fossetts Way had the ability to provide the city of Southend with a solution to the housing shortage, whilst simultaneously addressing the problem of the council housing waiting list.

“Council homes have proven to be a stable long-term income generator for local authorities despite the dilution of stock through right-to-buy, so it’s a shame that the council didn’t show the ambition this city badly needs.

“Above market rents will be out of reach for many people living on or around the minimum wage, as well as valuable key workers, the backbone of our vital services.”

The council will lease the homes from Thames Plaza and then rent the homes, keeping a percentage of the rent in order to manage and maintain the homes before giving the rest to Thames Plaza. However, if the council fails to rent the homes it will still be liable to pay rent to Thames Plaza.

Tony Cox, leader of the council, said: “The council effectively leases the properties from Thames Plaza. We then agree a rent. There is a percentage of that rent we keep back for the maintenance of the properties. We would still have to provide the rent if there was nobody living in them.

“However, we’ve got rent free periods that allows us a period after each home has been built.”

Careful consideration has had to go into the type and number of homes on the site in order to have the best chance of renting out the properties for a required level of income.

Mr Cox said: “This is why the due diligence has been done to make sure the rents are at the right level, the product’s there and the market is there so you’re not in that position. That’s why we have the level of the homes, the sizes.

“There is a rent nearly agreed. The rent period is 55 years and after that they give the homes to us.”