I’ve teamed up with my fellow campaigner from Save Southend NHS, Kate Sheehan, and seasoned housing welfare campaigner, Colin Nickless, to create a community group, lobbying for the building of more social housing to rent for Southenders on land recently sold off by the NHS, for well below market value, at Fossetts Farm.
The 14 acre site, where previously a new NHS diagnostic and treatment centre had been planned, was sold earlier this year by the NHS to Homes England for £7.8 million. It is estimated that up to 400 new homes could be built on that land, which would mean it’s true market value could be in excess of £40 million.
We’ve called ourselves Fossetts for the People and believe that Southend Council should step in and develop the land under a Council-owned Local Housing Company scheme (LHC). Currently around 150 other councils up and down the country have already started doing this with tens of thousands of new homes either being built or planned. 
Over the last decade, house prices in the borough have shot up by around 50%, meaning many local people and families have been priced out of the housing market. With a dire shortage of good quality, affordable private rental properties in the town and a very long waiting list for council properties, Southend Borough Council could utilise this land to not only relieve housing pressures, but also bring in much needed revenue to the Council which has seen its grant from central government cut by around £8 million year on year to the tune of £40 million in total.
One thing we know from our NHS campaign is that there is a chronic shortage of trained medical staff in the town. A major factor hampering the recruitment of staff is the incredibly high property prices and rents in the area. Nurses have seen their pay capped and even frozen for years now and find it very hard to find decent accommodation that they can afford in Southend. Staff don’t get the London weighting here that their colleagues in Basildon benefit from.
We understand that Southend Borough Council set up a Local Housing Company called Southend Housing Ltd in 2016 but has failed to progress any developments. We’d like to know why land that belonged to the public has been sold off by the NHS for a fraction of the price it will be worth once houses are built on it.
This is a great opportunity for Southend Council to take positive steps towards alleviating the housing crisis we face in this town by building homes to let at truly affordable rents to people that are most in need in Southend. It will also create an income stream to plough back in to other local services. The alternative will be that a private developer moves in, creating hefty profits for itself and its shareholders by building ‘executive’ homes for London commuters.
The campaign is backed and supported by the New Economics Foundation, a charitable organisation which has extensively researched public land sales in the UK and campaigns against land privatisation and for more social housing.
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