By GEOFF PERCIVAL
WORK to replace the Cuckoo Corner roundabout with seven sets of traffic lights could start by April this year.
The £7.5million plans for the junction include pedestrian crossings and are aimed at easing congestion along the A127, from the borough boundary to the town centre.
Work wil lbe carried out over two years with £4.5million allocated from 2009 to 2010 and £3million from 2010 to 2011.
Plans are due to be backed by the East of England Regional Transport Forum at a meeting tomorrow.
Proposals will then need approval from the full regional assembly later this month and then the Government. It is thought work could start as Early as April.
Cuckoo Corner currently links Prince Avenue, Manners Way, Priory Crescent and Victoria Avenue.
Anna Waite, Southend councillor responsible for transport and chairman of the transport forum, said: "This is purely for Cuckoo Corner and is part of our plans to improve the traffic flow along the A127.
"It is not involved with the widening of Priory Crescent and is designed to ease congestion.
"The money is available, we're just waiting for Government to sign on the dotted line."
The council is also to seek funding for improvements at the Bell in Prittlewell and Kent Elms Corner in Eastwood.
FEARS have been raised the £7.5million scheme to imrpove Cuckoo Corner will lead to two years of traffic chaos.
Some motorists have even questioned whether the scheme will improve the flow of traffic along the A127.
Labour group leader David Norman said: "From the motorist's point of view, it is likely to cause major disruption for a long time while the work is being carried out.
"I also believe it will do little or nothing to improve traffic flow at Cuckoo Corner."
Graham Longley, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, said: "I am surprised to hear this scheme has effectively been cut in two with just looking at Cuckoo Corner.
"I shall be asking questions about what exactly is going on as I think this could cause more problems than it solves.
"I just cannot see the point of what is being proposed for Cuckoo Corner without looking at Priory Crescent.
"I also have concerns for people living in Earls Hall Avenue, who will find it very difficult to drive into Southend along Victoria Avenue. They could also see their road being used as a rat run by motorists avoiding Cuckoo Corner and the Bell."
Peter Walker, chairman of the Priory Park Preservation Society, was also sceptical. He said: "What causes queues on Priory Crescent is the near-constant stream of traffic from Prince Avenue on to Victoria Avenue at Cuckoo Corner. Because traffic leaving Priory Crescent has to give way to the right, cars have to wait for the infrequent gaps in the traffic, because a lot of people turn right from Prince Avenue.
"If you improve flow on Priory Crescent with traffic lights, you'll just make the queues longer on the A127."
A Camp Bling protester, known as Ginger, said: "If the go-ahead is given for this road there will be anarchy along Priory Crescent which will be beyond our control."
Lauren Todd, 24, a nanny, of Prince Avenue, Southend, said: "Even if this gets the go-ahead, we are still going to have problems in this area. Traffic lights will be almost the same as the roundabout, you will still have to wait for them, just like you have to wait at the roundabout.
"But traffic lights might slow the boy racers down, which would be good."
Stan Diggins, 63, a retired airline pilot, of Earls Hall Avenue, Southend, said: "In my opinion, traffic lights coul help. Although depending on the plans, it may mean we would only hae one exit to Southend from this area.
"At the moment, people can go around the round about and down into town, but if traffic lights were put in that would not be an option."
David Hart, 53, a heating and ventilation fitter, of Prince Avenue, Southend, said: "I can't see this making any difference. In fact, I think traffic lights could make it worse. People will be brought to a standstill, whereas at the moment the traffic does flow. A bypass would be the only way of cutting traffic down. It's such a main route, you can't cut down on the number of cars."
THE widening of Priory Crescent in Southend will not happen for years, transport chief Anna Waite has revealed.
Mrs Waite, councillor responsible for planning and transport, said the economic slump had forced the plans to be put on hold.
She said: "Plans for a small section of dual carriageway in Priory Crescent and a new entrance to the Prittlebrook industrial estate will have to wait until we have a developer prepared to invest in the planned business park.
"In the present economic climate, I think it is highly unlikely there will be any major development on the site within the next few years.
"It is not feasible to look at any improvement work in Priory Crescent until we have any definite news of development on the site."
The former Ekco Works, now Prittlebrook Industrial Estate, is seen by the council as a site for business park in the future.
Although much of the site has been cleared, there have been no planning applications for development. The issue of the road has been a bone of contention in the town since it was first mooted as part of the local transport plan more than ten years ago.
Protesters took over the site now known as Camp Bling after the discovery of the burial site of a Saxon King in February 2004.