THE last major obstacle blocking Southend United’s stadium move has been cleared.
The Echo understands Sainsbury’s has struck a deal to buy the old Prospects College site, in Fairfax Drive, which is crucial to the Blues’ dream of
building a new home at Fossetts Farm.
A stalemate between the college and the supermarket chain, which will develop the college site as part of a new superstore, had threatened to derail the entire project.
However, it is now believed both parties, with the help of Southend Council, have settled on a reported £2million sale.
A source close to the deal said: “That’s the figure I understand has been agreed. Prospects was always happy to sell, but it took some time for it to be smoothed out.”
The Prospects building is at the heart of Sainsbury’s plans to redevelop the Blues’ Roots Hall ground.
In return for the land, the supermarket chain has agreed to bankroll the majority of the new stadium at Fossetts Farm.
Sainsbury’s has already agreed to buy the flats at St Mary’s Court, in Victoria Avenue, bulldoze the buildings and relocate the residents there.
It still needs to buy up a few remaining shops in Victoria Avenue, and the flats above them, with some of the owners believed to be holding out for a higher price.
However, the Prospects site was seen as the key deal which would make or break the project, to the extent that council chiefs agreed in January to use a compulsory purchase order to end the
deadlock. That was a move which angered Neil Bates, chief executive of Prospects, who said the college had always been willing to sell and there was no need for “heavy-handedness”.
Council chiefs stepped in to broker a deal, and bosses from Sainsbury’s and Prospects have met in recent weeks to finalise an agreement. It is understood Sainsbury’s still needs to exchange
contracts before the sale can be formally completed.
Rob Tinlin, the council’s chief executive, said: “We are delighted to be able to help key partners like Southend United and Prospects College, and pave the
way for the club to achieve its new stadium – and for Sainsbury’s to gain a new superstore.”
A spokesman for Sainsbury’s refused to comment.