The previous day, James Westgate, Group Manager in the Transport Dept at SBC, telephoned Peter Walker, Chairman of PPPS, to let him know that plans of the proposed scheme were not yet available to the Public and that tonight's meeting was not open to the Public. This last statement was not true - yet another episode in the Council's shameful campaign of deceit.
One PPPS committee member, Alex Bunn, did turn up and was the only PPPS member in the Public Gallery. He reported that the level of debate was "abysmal" and that only 4 Councillors spoke. The Minutes will be displayed on this website in due course). Chris Dandridge spoke against the road scheme. Graham Longley spoke in favour. The majority of councillors were in self-congratulatory mode. This business, 20 minutes in all, was all it took to set the wheels in motion to destroy a Park which has been part of Southend's heritage for 80 years.
Earlier in the day, two Councillors who had been "named and shamed" in the PPPS News, telephoned to complain that their names had been mentioned and that we had anticipated that they would vote in favour of the road scheme. These councillors, Ron Price and Murray Foster (both Prittlewell) both expressed misgivings concerning us mentioning their names and Price demanded an apology. Within 12 hours he was indeed fulfilling our prediction - hypocrisy knows no bounds in the Southend Council Chamber.
The Southend Society, at its AGM on Wednesday 7th, voted overwhelmingly to keep the Park in its current form. There were four councillors present at this meeting: Teresa Merrison (Westborough), Jonathan Garston (Milton), Brian Houssart (St. Laurence) and Raymond Davy (Milton). Although Jonathan Garston made conciliatory noises at the previous evening's meeting, he still voted in favour of wrecking the park, as did Davy and Houssart. Teresa Merrison has now put a favourable comment on this website and voted in favour of saving the park.
R. A. Jones gave this park to the people of Southend in an era when Great Men were achieving Great Things in this country. Millions of our finest had just been cut down in the Great War, and many of those that returned were killed by the influenza epidemic which swept across Europe. It was a time in which lions were led by donkeys. There is no doubt in the mind of this humble observer that R. A. Jones was one of the Great Men, a pioneer in philanthropy. He recognised the sacrifice and suffering of the people of this town and, in a gesture of unparallelled generosity, gave them Priory Park, to be enjoyed for ever by their descendants.
On Thursday November 8th 2001, in the Southend Council Chamber, the sound of braying was deafening.