- Jun 19, 2009
Football stadium to become homes?
ROOTS Hall has been earmarked for up to 290 homes in the biggest hint yet that Southend Council is losing faith in Sainsbury’s building a superstore there.
The dilapidated football stadium and its surrounding land has been listed as an “opportunity site” for housing.
The homes will be built if Sainsbury’s fails to follow through on plans to relocate its London Road store to the Southend United ground, in Victoria Avenue.
Senior councillors have admitted supermarket chains are now reluctant to build huge stores, but have urged the public not to read too much into Roots Hall being including in detailed housing planning documents.
Sainsbury's insists it is in “commercially sensitive discussions” with the League One club, but the chain has never followed through with its plans despite the Blues getting Government approval to move to a new 21,000- seater venue at Fossetts Farm in 2008.
Labour’s Ian Gilbert, who represents Victoria ward, said: “While Sainsbury’s public statements say they are still committed to doing something on the site, we all know this has been going on for a very long time.
“It makes sense to prepare for all eventualities. With such a large site, I’d like a mixed use development on there, with commercial and employment buildings on the land, as well as homes."
Planning officers have also said they would like a mixed scheme at Roots Hall if Southend United moves to Fossetts Farm, which the homes expected to be flats.
When speaking publicly, club chairman Ron Matin appears to shed doubt on Sainsbury’s moving to Roots Hall, after getting real estate firm British Land on board last year to bankroll the first phase of the new stadium.
However, it is thought several shops in the row along Victoria Avenue are owned by the supermarket giant, while the former Prospects College site is still owned by the college.
Labour’s David Norman, who is responsible for planning, said: “There should not be too much read into the document, as it is a planning policy aspiration.
“But it looks like the big four supermarkets are drawing in their horns. A mixed use development which included some retail is the best bet for the area.”
Also included as an “opportunity site” is Sainsbury’s current home.
The authority believes it could get 150 homes on there, as well as offices, if the supermarket follows through with its plans to move.
Jamie Forsyth, co-editor of Blues fanzine All At Sea, remains cautious on whether the club will ever move, but would want any housing development in Roots Hall to touch on the football heritage of the site. He said: It’s not really a surprise the site has been earmarked for homes.
“Sainsbury’s seem to have gone cold on the idea of a store there and the natural assumption would be that houses would be the alternative – it’s a prime site at the entrance to Southend, five minutes walk from Prittlewell station and there wouldn’t be a shortage of interested parties.”