South East Essex Green Party Opposes Proposed Queensway Development

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. Victoria Ward.

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 new proposed plans list a total of 1300 homes on the site, with only 441 of those being "affordable." 
    This increase of over 900 homes on the site will increase traffic in the area and it will worsen Air Quality.
  • The demolition of the existing 16-storey tower blocks was justified as a removal of the 'unsightly towers' but with many of the proposed structures being 7-storey buildings, there will still be a large volume of high-rise living on the site.
  • Southend Borough Council has 'assured' current tenants that no current Council tenants will be out of a home.
    The proposed provision for current tenants is purportedly on the same terms but this has not been verified by any published details.
    The Council have also not commented on whether any of the new homes built on the site will remain Social Housing.
  • There are no substantiated plans for tenant relocation at present.
    The Council have not released any details describing the movement plan for the current residents, and there is a severe lack of other properties for the permanent or temporary
     relocation of Queensway residents.
    The waiting list for Council homes in Southend is currently over 2500 long, and on average, only one or two properties become available per month. 
  • The planned Homes will apparently no longer be Council-operated Housing, but instead, a new private company will house the current tenants.
    Currently, around 54 flats are privately owned. All other homes on the site are Council-owned.
    The Council have released no plans for how this scheme will operate, or who will be operating it.
  • The council have claimed that the 'Right To Buy' will be retained, but at what cost?
    How 'affordable' will these homes be?
  • There is a proposed 1-per-household (1:1) parking provision.
    With 859 of the planned properties being non-affordable, how likely is it that every household will only have one car?
    How will many extra cars unable to park on the site impact neighbouring areas?
  • There is a 'Commercial & Retail element' in current plans, with no assurance these units will be filled.
    What will happen to these empty units?
    Will they -like the units on Sutton Road- eventually be turned into yet more low-cost high-profit homes?
  • The proposed extreme road changes will extend travel times, increase congestion for traffic to Sutton Road and Southchurch Road from Victoria Circus, and significantly increase local Air Pollution.
    For an Ambulance responding to a Heart Attack call in under seven minutes, how long will it be delayed by battling through traffic on the Victoria Circus or Chichester Road?
  • The plans do not detail new Schools or Healthcare Facilities, yet additional homes on the site will increase pressure on local services.
    Southend already has the second highest number of GP vacancies in the country and our GP Surgeries are struggling.
    900 extra families will take its toll on the local amenities.
  • Southend is already developed far above the National Average, and it is not sustainable.
    The town is currently at 65% developed on -and increasing- whereas the national average is 6%.
    Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-41901294 
  • What is going to happen to the Southend Storehouse Foodbank and Support Services, currently on the Queensway site?
    These essential services are vital for those who rely on them. Where will they go?
  • With the proposed loss of the Short Street and Essex Street public car parks, and central town parking already very stretched, where are people going to park in Central Southend?
    A loss of central car parking in the town will negatively impact the businesses of the high street and will result in many people parking on neighbouring residential roads.
We think the people of Southend deserve to have these concerns adequately answered by the Council.

 

 The proposed Queensway Regeneration Site

The proposed site of the 'Queensway Regeneration' in central Southend.

The proposed Queensway Regeneration Site

Sketchy: The Council is yet to publish any detailed architectural drawings of the project.

 

No Plan For Queensway Residents.

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.)

 

"We believe that there should be a published action plan for the immediate and secure rehoming of the Queensway residents BEFORE any work starts."

 

 

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:

  • Risk the Queensway Residents becoming homeless.
  • Increase congestion on the Victoria Circus Interchange and Chichester Road/Short Street areas.
  • Increase pressure on local Schools and Health services.
  • Increase local Air Pollution and worsen environmental standards for the area.
  • Negatively impact parking in local neighbourhoods by removing the central town Carparks.
  • Reduce the number of Council-owned Social Housing properties in Southend, at a time where more is required.

 

The Public 'Consultation' into the Queensway Regeneration is still open.
Submit your objections via the Better Queensway website before December 15th.


http://betterqueensway.co.uk/feedback.html

 


Further Reading:


Echo Article: Tenants in crumbling tower blocks may be added to council house waiting list when they are demolished - 11th April

Echo Article: Anger over Queensway underpass plans in £300m estate revamp in Southend - 17th April.