MORE than 150 homes and a new multi-million pound hospice are set for prime land at the heart of Southend now a charity and a developer have finally reached a deal.
After eight months of talks, Havens Hospices has signed a deal with housebuilder Bellway Homes for a joint development on the former Ekco factory site, in Priory Crescent.
Plans for the 16-bedroom hospice, between 150 and 180 homes and an office block will be submitted to Southend Council later this year.
A joint statement said: “Bellway Homes and Havens Hospices have entered into an agreement, subject to contract, to progress plans for an adult hospice to form part of the development of the former Ekco site.
“We are delighted to be working together and will now begin to progress plans for the development of the site before submitting an application to Southend Council later in the year.”
The deal means Havens Hospices’ original controversial plan for a £15million facility on green belt land off Belton Way West, Leigh, has been dropped – to the delight of campaigners.
Mike King, chairman of Save Our Greenbelt, said: “It’s excellent news. Put the flags up, it is absolutely magnificent.”
Caroline Parker, chairman of Leigh Town Council, which opposed the Belton Way West Plan, said: “We are absolutely delighted with this outcome.”
The Echo revealed last month the new adult hospice, which would create an additional 90 paid and voluntary roles, would have significantly larger day care and treatment facilities than the current Fair Havens hospice, in Second Avenue, Chalkwell.
Bellway Homes, which the Echo understands is planning no affordable housing for the 20- acre former Prittlebrook Industrial Estate site, will build a small office block facing Priory Crescent, to appease councillors’ concerns over the loss of employment land.
Council leader Nigel Holdcroft said: “Obviously this is excellent news. Fair Havens does a great job but is hampered by the physical restrictions imposed by its current premises so I am delighted that their search for a new location has been successful.”
YEARS OF SEARCHING
Havens Hospices has been trying for years to find a site for a new adult 16-bed hospice.
Fair Havens hospice, in Second Avenue, Chalkwell, is not fit for purpose as it does not have a lift, yet most of its bedrooms are upstairs and there is a need for more beds.
In 2011, the charity looked at 212 sites across Southend, Rochford and Castle Point, including the Ekco site.
Plans were first submitted in autumn 2011 for a hospice with offices on Belton Hills, Belton Way West, Leigh.
Many voiced their opposition to the idea of building on a green belt site although a petition in support of the application attracted 17,000 names.
Southend Council planning officers recommended it for refusal and it was withdrawn in December 2011.
In March 2012, Havens registered its interest in the Ekco site, but that was dropped after owners Aviva spoke with others.
Re-drafted plans for Belton Hills were submitted in August 2012, but they were rejected by councillors in October 2012.
Havens appealed against the refusal in November 2012 and a date for an eight-day hearing was set for last June. The charity and council sought a last-minute deferral to give the hospice four months to talk with Bellway Homes and Havens dropped its appeal.
The Echo revealed last month the parties were hopeful of a deal – despite still being £400,000 apart in their valuation of Havens Hospices’ contribution for the land sale.
It is believed Bellway has been in negotiations with Aviva to buy the Ekco site.