Southend Echo
Wednesday 8th October, 2008


Protesters celebrate as council leader admits delay has pushed costs too high

THE controversial road-widening scheme for Priory Crescent looks doomed to failure, council leader Nigel Holdcroft has finally admitted.

The admission has been greeted with glee by protesters who have been camping by the road for four years. But they say they will stay until the scheme is officially cancelled.

Southend's two Conservative MPs, David Amess and James Duddridge raised the issue during an adjournment depate in the Commons.

Both called for an early decision on the scheme, which was first mooted more than ten years ago and led to a costly public inquiry.

Mr Amess said in view of the long delay and spiralling costs, the Department for Transport should consider whether the scheme was worth pursuing.

After the debate, Southend Council's Tory leader Mr Holdcroft said: "We are totally frustrated by all the delays over the various schemes put forward for widening Priory Crescent.

"If, as I think is almost certain, the Government is not going to finance it, then I wish it would let us know, so we can get on and try to make improvements at Cuckoo Corner."

He added: "If we had been able to go ahead with the scheme in the first place, the cost would have been a lot less. In the current economic climate, I think it is unlikely.

"On the other hand, if the Government is going to give any scheme in Priory Crescent the go-ahead, it should let us know before the costs rocket even further."

Denis Walker, secretary of the Priory Park Preservation Society, said: "We have always argued this scheme was not practical and I am glad it appears Southend Council is now seeing reality."

There has been a question mark over Government funding for some time, but a determined group of anti-road campaigners has continued to occupy wasteland near Priory Park as a reminder of public opposition.

The protest camp was nicknamed Camp Bling because it is on the site where the remains of a Saxon king's burial trove were excavated.

Camp Bling activist Peter Mason said: "We have really been holding our celebrations in abeyance.

"We have thought for some time it was very unlikely the scheme would ever go ahead and this seems to confirm our view.

"Once we know for a fact it won't go ahead, w will pack up our things and go. We will tidy up the area and leave it as we found it."

It's time to back or bin costly road plan

Conservative MPs urge ministers ot end ten-year Priory Crescent stalemate

SOUTHEND'S Tory MPs have pressed the Government to make an urgent decision on the future of the road widening scheme next to Priory Park in Southend.

James Duddridge, Conservative MP for Rochford and Southend East, told the Commons: "Almost any decision is better than the present prevarication, waiting and uncertainty."

Councillors want to build at £10million dualcarriageway in part of Priroy Crecent to tackle the traffic bottleneck at Cuckoo Corner.

Various plans for the works have been put forward to the Government oer the past ten years, but there is still decision on funding for the scheme.

Mr Amess told the House: "The scheme is expensive, but for it to have hung over residents for so long is, to say the least, very unhelpful indeed.

"The argument about the scheme has gone on and on.

"Given money is very tight at the moment and widening the road would be very expensive, I would have thought it whould have been advisable for the Department of Transport to reflect on the project."

Mr Duddridge added: "We need a decision on Priory Crescent as soon as possible."

Local government minister John Healey said he understood the council was poised to submit further details to the Department for Transport about the scheme.

He added: "If that is submitted, ministers will give it full consideration alongside other calls on central transport funding."

'The scheme is expensive, but for it to have hung over residents for so long is, to say the least, very unhelpful indeed

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