2 December 2017
The South East Essex Green Party has today launched their campaign to challenge the proposed £300million Queensway estate development in Southend.
Clare Fletcher at the Queensway Estate in Southend.
Voicing many resident's concerns about increases in traffic, reduction in town parking, concerns over Air Pollution, the price of the homes, the relocation of residents, and general gentrification, the South East Essex Green Party launched its campaign to stop the Council's current proposal for the site.
Canvassing the opinions of locals on its 'Queensway Action Day', the group heard the worries of many current Queensway tenants and found that around 75% of residents have not engaged in the Council's public consultation.
Most locals are in favour of the demolition of the existing Pennine, Malvern, Chiltern, and Quantock blocks, but are sceptical of how sincere the Council's offer of like-for-like housing actually is.
Many residents are worried about the logistics of temporarily or permanently rehoming over 400 households, and most believe that this development will leave them severely out of pocket, and even homeless.
In light of the council's shocking lack of transparency regarding the plans, many residents fear the Council is making a huge mistake at the expense of residents.
Clare Fletcher, candidate for Victoria Ward where Queensway is situated, raised these concerns:
The proposed site of the 'Queensway Regeneration' in central Southend.
Sketchy: The Council is yet to publish any detailed architectural drawings of the project.
At a recent meeting* attended by Mrs Fletcher, Councillor Ian Gilbert, and Councillor David Norman MBE, it was revealed to the South East Essex Green Party that the Council currently have no plans for the future of the current Queensway Residents.
Councillor Norman said that the current situation of social housing in Southend was "the worst social housing crisis in the country" and that on average only one or two properties become available each month for those on the waiting list.
Currently, that waiting list is over 2500 people long, meaning that even if the Queensway residents get priority on that list, it would still take 16 YEARS to rehome just the Queensway Residents at the current rate, and a further 104 YEARS to house the entire housing list.
It was also revealed that the Council would not be using the Emergency Housing Provision (facilitated by South Essex Homes) to house the Queensway Residents, as the service's 120 units are already over-capacity.
Councillor Gilbert suggested that the issue of rehoming the current residents would be circumvented by building the new-build properties to the east of the site (Essex Road) first, and housing residents in these buildings while the rest of the demolition and construction work was undertaken. - This has not been substantiated by the council, has not been published by the council or the Better Queensway scheme, and it has not been described in any official documentation.
(*at the 28.11.2017 Women's Refuge meeting hosted by South Essex Homes at Civic Centre.)
THE OPINION OF RESIDENTS.
We spoke with Mike Smith, Secretary of the Queensway Residents Association to get a better understanding of the residents' feelings towards the project.
He explained that while every resident has been sent the glossy Better Queensway brochure and has been invited to numerous consultation meetings with the Council, many residents have not engaged with the scheme, and meeting turnout is often low.
He noted that the buildings had some structural surveying undertaken recently, and the findings of those tests were rumoured that the buildings were "completely structurally fine for the next thirty years," in direct opposition to the council's narrative.
These test results have not been published by the Council.
We have submitted a Freedom of Information request to ascertain the structural condition of the four towers.
Mr Smith added, that in a perfect scenario; "I'd rather it not happen, and a full refurbishment takes place."
He did stress to us, however, that not every resident shares his views, and that most are in favour of complete demolition of the site.
"The majority of residents are worried about how vague the Council has been, and the lack of clarity is upsetting some people."
Mr Smith explained to us of the Council's current intention to develop the site in stages over a construction phase lasting "five to seven years" initially with the Essex Street quadrant first.
The 54 Leaseholders across the site will apparently be offered a non-negotiable sum of the market value of the property, plus ten percent, while those in Social Housing have been offered a priority place on the Council Housing List, potentially superseding those in most immediate need. A concerning state of affairs considering many at the top of the list have been waiting for several years for Social Housing.
We asked him about his views on some of our concerns over parking, traffic, and Air Quality, and he agreed with us that serious thought needs to be exercised on the Council's part and that current proposals show a clear and evident lack of foresight.
There are too many very serious unanswered questions and such a lack of detail in these propositions that we cannot be satisfied that this scheme is purely in the interests of locals.
It is our belief that this project in current form will: