Southend Echo
Monday February 22, 2010

Priory protesters threaten 'direct action' over scheme



FURIOUS campaigners have regrouped and promised 24-hour surveillance to save Priory Park from the bulldozers.

The council has been accused of breaking last April's promise with Camp Blingers not to widen Priory Crescent.

Campaigners are convinced they have been hoodwinked and part of the park and trees will be destroyed when the road is widened by 160 metres.

Yesterday, former Save Priory Park! protesters united with members of Saxin King in Priory Park protesters and dathered at the scene to show their defiance.

Tents were set up and two banners went up, one saying "stop the slaughter, save Priory Crescent," the other says "No repeat of Victoria Circus", referring to the cutting down of trees on the Vic Circus roundabout. Speaking from Cuckoo Corner, Parklife campaigner Shaun Qureshi, 38, said the area would now be watched around the clock and "direct action" would be used if necessary.

He said: "An eye will be kept on the park at all times.

"We will have overt presence, in the way of protesters in the park, covert presence, in the way of private vehicles staking out the scene.

"Plus, we have local residents on side now who will keep an eye on the site and alert us if any action is being taken."

He told how campaigners were furious the council had gone back on its word.

He said: "We have recently been shown the latest designs and are now led to believe that 160 metres of road widening will go-ahead on the first stretch of Priory Crescent as far as Prittle Brook industrial estate. This is about public trust.

"Time for talking is done. This is a time for action."

However, hed id rule out a return of Camp Bling.

He added: "This will be a different approach. There could be some surprise tactics.

"We don't need another Camp Bling. There will be direct action if necessary with campaigners standing in the way of bulldozers if needs be."

Camp Bling campaigners met with transport councillor Anna Waite, council leader Nigel Holdcroft, and chief executive Robert Tinlin in April 2009.

Mr Qureshi told how in response to questions about slip roads and widening, assurances were given by Mrs Waite this would only be considered next to the Cuckoo Corner junction in the space previously occupied by two demolished houses, and all parties present agreed that Camp Bling would be vacated within three months on this basis.

However, he added: "The plans we have seen do not stick to this agreement, hence why we have regrouped."

Anna Waite, Southend's councillor for planning and transport, admitted the "finer detail" of the plan was new and work was due to start very soon.

She said: "The route we have chosen for the marginal widening is the one which requires the least amount of trees to be removed.

"A total of 16 are coming out, they are not all large and mature. They have already been replaced with ten trees nearby. There will be 32 more going in too.

"We are not vandals. This is an incredible scheme for Southend."

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