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What would Confelicity do with the Kursaal?

Updated: May 1, 2023

Ideally, all assets of community value should be publicly owned for the benefit of the community.

The Kursaal is one of our most historic assets and should therefore come under this banner.

Unfortunately, the council gave the current owners a 200 year lease, effectively taking it out of our hands for as long as we will remember.

This wouldn’t necessarily have been a problem if the ambitions of the new owners aligned with the ambitions of a council who wanted to see it thrive. Moreover, it is important not to forget that long leases are vital to incentivise investors.

Had they been successful, no one would have had any issues with who owned what and for how long - it just so happened that these particular owners turned out to be wholly unsuitable to be the custodians of such a historic and important part of Southend and have led it to ruin.

As a party, before we bundle into the fray with little information, our first job will be to speak with the owners to find out what they would like to do. You never know, they might have a viable plan ready and waiting!

If they do, then we would help support and facilitate their vision to bring it to life. If they don’t, as seems likely, then we do need it back into public hands.

Only problem is, in the case of a Compulsory Purchase Order, Southend Council has no funding and no business plan to deliver anything (unless they have both and they are looking to surprise us), making it seemingly impossible to even get past the ‘preliminary enquiries’ stage of the CPO process.

And so, ideally, yes it should be brought into public hands, but we need a viable project plan and somehow win government funding. Lots of work and lots of what if's?

But let's go with it.

Now, the council’s expertise is not business, but the business plan could simply see themselves as landlords of a Kursaal broken down into smaller areas where businesses could take long-term leases that might: re-establish the Kursaal ballroom, run an ice rink, water park, indoor market, music arena, build a smaller version of Center Parcs, or even a mini-version of the Eden Project to name just a few attractions that could work.

With this as a base the next stage would be to work out how to achieve the kind of funding required to bring it back to life. And with every passing day that cost becomes bigger as the building falls further into disrepair.

Does Southend want to?

Realistically, this project is way beyond the reach of the council's resources, but we can be absolutely sure that it would leap to the top of the list were it to gain almost unanimous city-wide support.

If it is known that the whole city want this then it is possible for the City Council to march forward and invest in the resources to put us in a position where we can do it. I can hear the consultants licking their lips!

The Queensway development is £575m. A project that has shaky developers and includes filling in the underpass. And yet it currently has the green light. The Seaway development, which wants to see a bowling alley built next to a bowling alley and a cinema near a cinema, has £10m earmarked in the council budget. They acquired the Victoria Shopping Centre for £10m, spent another £2m on roof repairs, is half empty and they plan to move the Civic Centre offices in there stealing retail space, and yet they retain it.

The Kursaal is most certainly attainable, but the risk needs to be shared among Southend residents. If we are going to do it, we must be step-by-step in doing so together.

With living costs such as they are, do you really want the council to spend money designing an expensive business plan worthy of applying for government grants that would enable a Conpulsary Purchase Order? If so, I am sure we would be excited to lead the charge. If not, then we can only sit and wait for some major investors out there willing and ready to buy the lease off AEW.

Unfortunately, there seems to be no hero in all this ready to win the day!

Break the Clause

We have been stung with Marine Plaza, the old Odeon building, the Southend United football stadium development, Southend Cricket Pavilion and Southend Marine Activity Centre (SMAC). And the biggest and most iconic of them all, the Kursaal.

Dee Curtis, candidate for Milton Confelicity and CIC Urban Cure founder, successfully prevented the council from turning SMAC into toilets and is doing the same for Southend Cricket Pavilion, where it is currently set to be demolished. But these are rescue jobs and it shouldn't take a passionate and willing citizen to go out of their way to even have to get involved in this way in the first place.

One thing is for sure, we would never allow anymore contracts to pass without a break-clause in the case of developers just sitting on their assets.

All of this needn't have happened, and it is vital to the community of Southend that it never happens again. Whether we back the Kursaal resurrection or not, we have had plenty of red flags that the decision-makers have been struggling - and for many years. And so as residents, let us now pay far greater attention to what they are doing. Not always easy with our busy lives, but we can see the consequences of not doing so.

Back to the question at hand: do Southend citizens want us to invest in creating a business plan worthy of a potential Compulsary Purchase?

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Sensible response that focuses on all relevent facts and also exposes the disgraceful decisions the Council has made recently. I think 250 years leases on Kyrsaal and Seaway, not 220 but hey ho, crazy anyway. Directors leaving in droves which means, certain people are not listening. Join the doubters and the antagonists and let's get Southend back on track for the residents and not the overpaid Directors who need to spend millions on consultants!

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