THE PRITTLEWELL road protesters encamped at Camp Bling have been treated in the past as a group of harmless and quite colourful eccentrics.
Suddenly they're not looking quite so harmless.
Southend councillors have started to gauge the cost of evicting them. The results should wipe out any indulgent smiles that may remain on the faces of local taxpayers when Camp Bling is mentioned.
Mass eviction is a dangerous and very expensive business, as councils at Newbury, Wanstead, and Batheaston discovered. Even after eviction, the cost of site security continues to eat at the budget.
Road protesters have steadily honed their tactics and are expert at making the process fraught and drawn out. They may be few in number at present, but many more could descend on the site at a moment's notice once the action hots up.
Among Bling's campers we can be sure that there are those prepared to play the role of martyrs.
Yet Southend must bite the bullet, however expensive.
The decision to widen the road was arrived at after an exhaustive and completely democratic process.
If the protesters are allowed to over turn this process it won't be a victory for people power, but for mob rule.