SOUTHEND Council will next week kick off a ‘once in a generation’ regeneration project to transform the face of a whole estate.

The Labour, Lib Dem, and Independent administration wants to transform the Queensway estate, spanning from Southchurch Road in the town centre to Coleman Street.

The ambitious plans, dubbed by senior officials as the biggest housing project the authority has undertaken, could include demolishing the four tower blocks on the estate, and building around 130 extra homes in addition to the properties already there.

In another radical step, the authority will also look at re-designing the Queensway dual carriageway which slices the estate in two and could even fill in the notorious underpass underneath the Southchurch Road roundabout.

Sally Holland, corporate director for corporate services at the council, said: “This will be a once in a generation opportunity. It was built in the 1960s and 55 years on we’re looking into a huge refurbishment again.

“This will be highly significant for Southend. We’ve never done anything on this scale before. From a housing point of view, it’s our largest project.”

At next week’s cabinet, councillors on the council are expected to rubber-stamp plans to plough £150,000 into initial scoping works.

For the next nine to 12 months, officers will see what could be possible for the estate, with refurbishment or demolition of the 1960s tower blocks not ruled out.

After the old Queensway House building in Essex Street was knocked down, the council has a large slice of land available for regeneration at the back of Quantock – that is where some of the 130 new homes could go.

Jacqui Lansley, head of housing at the council, said: “We are trying to achieve a transformation of this area to create a vibrant community and affordable homes.

“There is a huge demand on social housing that we cannot fulfil at the moment.”

The new homes, which will contain several affordable units, will be no bigger than six-storeys high.

The project area has been split into five priority parts – with the primary spots being around Quantock, the areas around the Malvern, Chiltern, and Pennine blocks, and the old Focus Youth Centre.

No new rooms will be let out on long-term leases in the blocks while the review is underway.

The secondary area includes the Queensway dual carriageway, with councillors labelling the underpass a ‘waste of space’.

Labour’s David Norman, cabinet member for housing on the council, added: “You can see from the overhead maps how much land the road takes up and how much it cuts the estate in half.”

Letters will be sent out to residents about the project starting from today.


Map of the estate


A STRING of decisions marks the path to the decision to tackle Queensway’s problems:

July-December 2013: Queensway House demolition work

July 2014: Leaked documents show Southend Council is considering a tower block demolition programme

August 2014: Council writes to residents to assure them nothing has been decided

September 2014: The stop-gap car park opens in Essex Street

September 2014: A report to kick-start a year-long review into what could be done to regenerate the estate goes to Southend Council’s cabinet

October 2014: Councillors set to meet estate residents to keep them updated

June-September 2015: The preferred opinion for the estate will be revealedd

End of 2015: Works could start on the regeneration.


Labour's David Norman on the estate


Foodbank 'must stay in town'

THE man who runs a popular Queensway foodbank has said it should stay in the town centre, whatever happens with the regeneration.

All options are on the table for the Storehouse, including demolition, refurbishment, or a move.

The council’s key pledges for the project outline a promise to “improve or enhance community facilities in the area”, meaning the estate is unlikely to lose the service.

John Williams, who runs the Storehouse, said: “If they are happy to provide the estate with a new community centre and wanted us to be part of it, we would be happy to move there, providing we can run our services from it. We are partly council funded, but we provide a vital service to those who are the hardest hit in the community.

“There are a lot of social problems this side of town and we’re well placed to try to deal with those issues, so we’d want to stay up here. The council needs us.”

The old Focus Youth Centre, due to be demolished later this year, is also included in the regeneration area.


Residents gather to grill the council over the estate at a meeting


We like our estate as it is, claim residents

Residents claim they like the estate as it is.

Southend Council has promised to consult residents from the start of the project, which includes sending letters to everyone on the estate.

Housing bosses have also said they will hold an update meeting with the Queensway Community Group in October, once the project has got under way.

Mike Smith, of Malvern flats, said: “The tower blocks don’t look photogenic admittedly, but we’ve had a lot of work inside, such as new bathrooms.

“Cosmetic work on the outside of the blocks will go a long way, as opposed to a massive regeneration.

“I’m happy living here for the next 20 years.

“Some of the flats, including Nicholson House, in Southchurch Road, are welldesigned and look more pleasant, so maybe a look like that would be good.”

Another resident, Rose Chapman, 82, who has lived in the Quantock tower block for 36 years, said: “When I moved in here, it was beautiful, they had roses along the roads. It does need regeneration, and they have made some bad decisions, such as only letting us open the windows a certain amount.

“The area has gone downhill, but I still like living here and I don’t want to move.”


Independents Ron Woodley and Martin Terry at the new council car park


New car park opens - as a stop-gap measure

A NEW town centre car park will just be a stop-gap while the council decides what to do with the Queensway estate.

The Essex Street car park opened to the public last Friday, in the space were the old Queensway House, demolished in December last year, was located.

The authority hopes to generate an income from the car park while it decides what to do with the open space.

The most likely use of the area, behind the Quantock tower, is for housing, with the authority wanting to build about 130 homes on the estate.

Independent Ron Woodley, leader of the Labour, Lib Dem, and Independent administration, said: “It is a good use of the land and I am pleased to see it being used to provide more car parking for our residents, businesses and visitors.

“This area will be used as a car park until any future plans for the regeneration of the Queensway area are carried out.”

Standard town centre pay and display rates apply and access to the car park is off Essex Street.