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Swan looks for Sanctuary to rescue £575m Queensway project, after Orbit mysteriously exits left

Updated: Oct 18, 2022

It’s just so hard to believe.

Last month the Shareholder Board, Cabinet and the Place Security Committee all agreed to continue with Queensway with the proposed merger (or acquisition) of Swan Housing with Orbit.

It was precarious as it was given Swan’s grim financial assessment, and so it was quite a surprise that it met approval from all three meetings in under an hour collectively.

Just a reminder, that the cabinet approval was done and dusted in under 5 minutes including declarations of interest.

Very odd, but they must know what they’re doing - right?

Well, the merger or acquisition did not go ahead.

In the shareholder meeting it was admitted that no one knows why. Furthermore, it looked as though this vital piece of information was not being pursued. Had it not been for a councillor raising the point that knowing the reason would be useful, I am not overly sure it would have occurred to them.

And now we have a new player, Sanctuary, sent from the heavens with even bigger pockets than Orbit. So, by good fortune, they might argue that it worked out better anyway. Spurious.

Sanctuary will be the ones to step forward to acquire Swan and save Queensway.

In even quicker time than before, a business plan will be written, and I have no doubt it will pass - Sanctuary the saviours!

This project will go ahead no matter what it seems.

No viable partners in place as yet, but the meeting confirmed they are already talking about removing the bridge!

Last time I wrote an article about Queensway, I took the time to research Orbit and their financial robustness - not that I am a financial expert in these matters, I can just read a balance sheet and P&L.

This time I shall hold fire.

Incidentally, the Leader of the Council and Chair of the Shareholder board, is brother-in-law to one of the board of directors of Sanctuary. He openly declared this at the meeting, so there is no question of integrity. However, it is so close to home that were I in his position I would be just a lot concerned as to how it looks.

Again, I must profess that Queensway, aside from filling in the underpass, would likely turn us into a more presentable place to live. The general concept is good.

Given the behind-the-scenes fiasco I would not go near it. There are plenty of examples of building works that start and then halt for various reasons. That area of the city is quite a key part of Southend and even in the best-case scenario we are going to have to endure serious disruption.

Imagine these companies started failing during construction? The turmoil could go on for decades.

Even if there were a 100%, rock-solid company behind this project, it would still be a huge risk. As it is, the behind the scheme is lurching from company to company in the hope that not only it can survive, but then also deliver this mammoth project.

In years to come, if it turns out that the project was a roaring success, then I would say kudos to those that stuck their necks on the line and persevered.

The pragmatic position would be to let the funding deadline expire and start again without the intense pressure of getting this thing done.

Because we all know what happens when we simply get things done. Even if the idea is right, the practicalities and details are often far more important to whether the 'done' is what we all wished for.

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