IT’S finally happening! Southend United’s long-held dream of a new stadium is set to become reality... but plans for a cinema and shops being dropped.

A deal guaranteeing the club’s future has been struck with Southend Council.

The authority will now sign an agreement with social housing provider Citizen Housing and Southend United to manage hundreds of new homes at Roots Hall and around the planned stadium on Fossetts Farm, off Eastern Avenue.

READ MORE: 'Stadium plan is a win-win for us all and we can all be proud of it'

An initial cash injection is understood to be coming from the Government’s Homes England, which has agreed to provide a loan to the club for building the stadium.

This has been given on the basis that the project will lead to a significant number of homes.

The agreement means the Fossetts Farm stadium plans have been significantly revised:

  • The stadium itself will have 14,000 seats, down from the planned 21,000, though there is an ambition to increase the number eventually to 21,000
  • Plans for shops, a cinema and restaurants all being dropped and replaced with housing

In total, Southend Council will manage more than 1,300 rented homes with 502 at Roots Hall, the current home of the Blues.

About 800 new properties will be built at Fossetts Farm.

The council says there will be some space for a new health centre, convenience store and a community hub.

About 30 per cent of homes in both locations will be priced with “affordable” rent.

READ MORE: Bilel Mohsni would be happy to come back to Southend United

As the leaseholder of the site, the council will receive all rent from the homes leading to a long-term source of income.

Eventually, it will have the option to purchase the freehold of the leased homes for £1.

The decision to drop all shops and the cinema at the stadium site is a hugely significant move, which gives lifeblood to the club’s plans.

The move comes after a council-commissioned independent report by consultancy firm Boyers, claimed at the end of 2018, the Fossetts Farm plans were already deterring retailers from investing in the town centre.

The change also means the stadium will no longer compete with a planned £50m cinema and leisure complex on the Seaway Car Park, off Lucy Road, which also aims to bring a new cinema and restaurants.

Another change to the stadium plan is a reduction in capacity, with the first phase of the scheme including 14,000 seats, down from the initially planned 21,000.

The football club will now be expected to submit fresh planning applications.

Neither Roots Hall nor Fossetts Farm will not able to move forward until planning permission has been secured.

The previous planning application for the Fossetts Farm stadium was under consideration by the council for almost three years.

The final costs are still be decided.