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Taxpayers to pay to rebuild town gateway
EMPTY office blocks that blight a main gateway to Southend could be bought up and knocked down with taxpayers’ cash.
Southend Council’s Tory administration plans to spend £8million flattening derelict offices that loom over Victoria Avenue in a bid to boost investment in the town.
Speaking as he unveiled the plan as part of the next financial year’s budget, council leader Nigel Holdcroft said: “We are fed to the back teeth of looking out over the road to the bomb zone running up Victoria Avenue.
“It is a blight for people coming into the town, in particular potential investors. “We have tried to work for many years to get action on the sites without success.”
The authority would work with a private partner to buy of the empty office blocks – forcing developers to sell up if necessary.
The eyesores would be demolished and the land sold off or leased to private firms to build new developments in a bid to recoup some of the costs.
If landowners are willing to sell some of the four empty office blocks, wrecking crews could move in soon.
But if compulsory purchase orders are necessary, the redevelopment could take longer.
The largest of the blocks, Heath and Carby houses, at the northern end of the row at the junction with Harcourt Avenue, are likely to be top of the list.
Mr Holdcroft revealed the owners of office block the Pinnacle revamped its reception area a few years ago in a bid to attract new occupants – but any investors were put off by the site of Heath and Carby houses nextdoor.
The Conservative leader, who revealed in an Echo interview last month ahead of him stepping down in May that the impasse over Victoria Avenue’s redevelopment was the one regret of his time in office, said: “This is an outward sign that we have had enough.
“Do something yourselves, or if you won’t and you won’t come and talk to us we will go down the route of compulsory purchase orders.”
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