THE latest plans for the £500million Queensway redevelopment have been signed off – clearing the way for more than 1,600 homes.

The ambitious project aims to revitalise one of the most deprived areas in Southend, demolishing four high-rise blocks on the Queensway estate which have become a hotspot for crime.

The homes will be across a range of buildings, from three storeys to 18.

During a meeting yesterday, Labour council leader Ian Gilbert called it “the biggest regeneration project this council has ever contemplated”.

He said: “We have an estate in the centre of Southend which, whilst not all perceptions are fair, it has certainly had more than its fair share of problems.

“The tower blocks while structurally sound at the moment, do not meet the modern standards we would expect of dwellings and when we originally started this we did a considerable amount of work about whether there were option for refurbishment or demolishing.

“We decided clearly that for value for money and the best course for residents was to replace them.”

Kevin Robinson, who oversees business, culture and tourism in the town, also praised the plans.

He said: “There are no other organisations locally that have the political and economic clout to invest half a billion pounds into our town, so it is down to us to lead the way.

“The leadership we are showing by being committed to this will get the message across that we are also committed to redeveloping the town centre.”

The most controversial aspect of the scheme has been plans to fill in the underpass but retain the four-lane highway.

Deputy leader Ron Woodley said: “There has been concerns from various people about removing the underpass. Let’s make this perfectly clear. We have got surface roads which are four lanes coming all the way from the A127 right the way through on Victoria Avenue and then down Queensway after the underpass.

“It has been said this will cause carnage. Well we haven’t got carnage on any of the other four lane roads that we’ve got and at the end of the Queensway we’ve got single lane traffic so do we want to keep rushing to nowhere or do we want a planned travel programme that enables smooth running of traffic through our town.”

The first tower to come down will be Quantock in 2023.