AMBITIOUS plans have been unveiled for a 5,000-seater events arena and an £8.4million youth centre in Basildon town centre.

Basildon Council leader Gavin Callaghan announced the plans for the ‘South Essex Arena’ at a council meeting on Thursday night.

He also revealed information for the new youth zone in the town centre.

Early designs show the arena situated next to the council offices.

The leader is keeping tight lipped about any costs or exact details about the stadium project.

Mr Callaghan said: “We are proposing to bring a 5,000-seater arena to Basildon town centre as part of the masterplan.

“This will be a venue for conference space for businesses, a venue for music concerts and a venue for sports. This will change Basildon forever.”

He said the council is working with North American and Chinese firms on the arena project.

The leader added: “We are working with charity OnSide Youth Zones for the Basildon youth zone.

“There will be funding of £4.1million from the council and additional funding of £4.1million from the company.”

Mayor David Burton-Sampson, who chaired the meeting, said: “This is super exciting for the borough.”

Derrick Fellowes, deputy mayor also praised the plans and the vision.

He said: “These plans show great vision and ambition.

“[It is] just one of the many plans in the pipeline to regenerate the town centre as well as all four corners of the borough.”

But the plans were met with some concern among opposition members, who cited fears over where visitors would stay and how much it could cost.

Andrew Schrader, Tory councillor for Billericay East, said: “The bombshell of the area gives me questions about cost and where. I also have a lot of questions about the youth zone; it may or may not be a good idea.

"If this goes ahead it will cost £400,000 per year to run it and cost the council £200,000 in serving the debt that we need to borrow. I find it bizarre.”

Other plans announced included a seven day a week night shelter and rent increase for council tenants.

Basildon Council agreed to freeze council tax but tenants will see a rent rise as part of the latest budget plans.

Tenants in council properties will face an average increase of £10 per month on the rent.

Council chiefs say they are committed to continue funding night lighting in the borough as well as investment in new facilities and positive activities for young people.

The budget also includes measures aimed at cutting expenditure and increasing income to provide funds to support essential services.

Gavin Callaghan, leader of Basildon Council, said: “Over the last few months we have worked incredibly hard to extract more money from new and emerging commercial opportunities. 

“Allied to that, our existing commercial deals are performing better than anticipated. 
“So we have been able to freeze council tax at last year’s level and invest to meet the needs of residents now and into the future.

“Our budget has young people, regeneration, community safety and protecting our most vulnerable at its heart.”

A NIGHT shelter for homeless people which is open every day is set to launch in the borough, the council leader has announced.

Gavin Callaghan is working with churches to open the new shelter.
Council bosses say they hope it’ll be open very soon.

But the chiefs are keeping tight lipped about about costs and where it would be.
Kerry Smith, Independent members and deputy leader, said: “We want to do this ASAP but there’s a procedure to go through.

“There will need to be a consultation with residents and work with Essex County Council. As chairman of the housing committee I am often contacted about cases with people who are rough sleeping or staying on people’s sofa.

“When you look at the number of homeless people in the town it’s crazy.
“This new shelter will be tailormade to these people and will be of great benefit.”

In December, charity Shelter released a report suggesting at least 1,137 people in Basildon did not have a permanent home. The figures showed 1,117 were living in temporary accommodation arranged by Basildon Council at the end of March - the most up to date statistics.