By GEOFF PERCIVAL
SOUTHEND Council has ordered a total rethink of the controversial widening of Priory Crescent and slashed its costs in half.
Leader Nigel Holdcroft admitted there was "no hope in the forseeable future" of completing the project, which had been agreed after a three-week public inquiry nearly two years ago.
Costs of the proposed dual carriageway had escalated to about £20million [£27million], but a new plan will reduce this to an estimated £10.8million.
The new proposal has been worked up by Mr Holdcroft and Anna Waited, former council leader and now cabinet member for planning.
Under the scheme, the dual carriageway in Priory Crescent would only extend from Cuckoo Corner to the Lookers garage site, and will not affect the former burial ground of the Saxon King - where "Camp Bling" protesters have since set up.
Beyond Lookers, the road would be single carriageway again, meaning there would be no need for a new railway bridge as originally planned.
Almost 50 trees along Priory Crescent would have to be felled to make way for the wider road.
Mrs Waite said: "We have had talks with senior officers from the Department for Transport, who have indicated the scheme should be acceptable and that there should be funding available.
"I have made it clear this is not the end of the needs we have in Southend ad we will be coming forward in the future with proposals for other improvements at junctions along the A127.
"However, we want to saveguard and enhance the site of the Saxon King's burial as a commemorative area for the town."
The plan came in for criticism from opposition councillors, who said the watered-down scheme would not solve traffic problems.
Grahma Longley, Lib Dem group leader on the council, said@ "I cannot see having half a scheme for more than half the price is good value for money.
"I think it will just transfer the bottleneck from one place to another."
Ollie Hornbeam, full-time manager of the visitors' centre at Camp Bling, said he and his fellow protesters were heartened by the decision, btu would not be moving off the campsite yet.
He said: "It is not a 100 per cent victory for us and it doesn't mean we are going to go away, but it is a step in the right direction."