Hope For New Council Homes in Southend

Supporters of Fossetts For The People campaign outside the Civic Centre on Monday evening.

Several dozen activists from the Fossetts For The People campaign group were joined by councillors outside the Civic Centre ahead of the Extraordinary Meeting of Southend Borough Council on Monday evening which saw the Conservative minority Administartion defeated in a vote of ‘no confidence’.

We are campaigning for land at Fossetts Farm, formerly owned by the NHS and on which a diagnostic and treatment centre had been planned, should now be used to provide much-needed Council housing for local people. Plans for the health centre were scrapped and the land sold off by the NHS to Homes England for £7.8 million last summer. It is estimated that up to 400 homes could be built on the 14 acre site adjacent to the proposed new stadium for Southend Utd. The campaign group believe that the land should be developed by Southend Council to help solve the local housing crisis and provide desperately needed, good quality homes for locals and key workers such as NHS staff and teachers.

I am delighted that the Conservatives have lost control of the council; they have done virtually nothing to effectively tackle the chronic housing crisis in Southend. Their attitude towards the housing problem is probably best illustrated by their infamous appearance in Private Eye magazine in Dec 2017 when they were named as a ‘Rotten Borough’. Seven Tory councillors (and 1 Independent), all of whom were landlords with 24 rental properties between them, appealed against a decision barring them from voting on a compulsory licensing scheme for landlords. Normally, councillors can not vote on matters that personally affect them. Their appeal was successful and the licensing scheme that would have caused landlords inconveniences – such as keeping their properties up to a certain standard, was duly voted down.

Private Eye - Dec 2017. Southend BC Rotten Borough
Private Eye – Dec 2017

The previous joint administration between Labour, Independents and LibDems built the first Council houses for decades last time they were in power between in 2014-16 and they now have the opportunity to build many more.

One way or another this land will be developed. The choice is between a private developer, purely interested in pleasing its shareholders, or Southend Council making an investment to build homes for local people and also generate much needed finances for the local economy.

I don’t think many people like the idea of 100s of luxury ‘executive’ houses that won’t be anything like affordable for most people that live here. We have 1,500 local people on the Council’s waiting list, our local services are stretched to breaking point and the prospect of adding to the number of cars travelling in and out of town on the A13 & A127 with additional commuters can not be welcomed by many. Congestion is dreadful at peak times and the air pollution we suffer is already totally unacceptable.

We need houses fit for our children and grandchildren – homes that are easily affordable to them so that they are not forced to move away from the town. Anyone on an average wage in Southend just can’t afford the average house price of over £300,000. The staffing crisis at Southend hospital is also compounded by very high housing costs in the area meaning that nurses and care staff just can’t afford to work here

In its manifesto the local Labour Party committed to work towards developing the site for the benefit of local people and I know the Independents and LibDems are sympathetic towards and supportive of that idea too. I am very optimistic that this new political coalition in Southend can work together for the good of the people and the town in general.”

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