GEOFF PERCIVAL reports
BANNER-WAVING protesters fired their latest salvo at Southend Council, as a £3.5 million road widening scheme in Priory Crescent was finally given the go-ahead.
Campaigners opposed to the scheme crowded the council chamber at the Civic Centre, as councillors finally agreed by 30 votes to 17 to press on with the controversial plan.
Several times during the debate, mayor Howard Briggs had to call for order and threatened to clear the public gallery if interruptions continued.
Labour members, who pledged to abandon the proposals if they are returned to power at this week's elections, were cheered by protesters who jeered when Tories defended the scheme.
Liberal Democrat leader Graham Longley (Blenheim Park) siad there were other options which should be considered for the scheme.
He added: "The proposals are a short-term placebo to a problem that needs a major operation for the long term.
"The proposals are almost 15 years out of date, having first been mooted in 1987 and whereas 15 years ago, the dualling would have given Southend some traffic relief for a long period of time, it now represents nothing more than a mistake because it will not solve this problem.
"This town needs an alternative route in and out and agreeing to this would delay any further development."
Executive councillor for transport, Roger Weaver (Con, Eastwood Park) insisted the new proposals would not take any land from Priory Park and any trees which had to be felled would be replaced on a two-for-one basis.
He said: "I believe there is a silent majority i nthis town and that the silent majority wants us to carry out these improvements which are the right ones for Southend and its people."
David Ascroft (Con, Shoebury) addded: "I believe this road scheme is vital for the east of the town and people in Shoebury are constantly telling me how much it is needed."