Evening Echo
July 7, 2006

Priory Crescent widening put on ice as costs soar

CONTROVERSIAL plans for widening Priory Crecent in Southend have officially been put on ice because of escalating costs.

The Government had been expected to announce yesterday whether the scheme was going to go ahead.

Instead, it said the scheme was under review and a spokeswoman said a decision would be made "in due course". The review will look at how estimates for the cost of the project have jumped to well over £20million.

The latest setback will be hugely embarrassing to the Conservative-controlled council, which has tried to push the plan through in the teeth of determined opposition from environmental groups.

The campaign to halt the road widening gained momentum after the historic remains of a Saxon king, including gold relics, were excavated from the site. A high-profile occupation of the site has been dubbed Camp Bling.

Campaign spokesman Shaun Qureshi claimed the latest estimate by the East of England Development Agency of the cost of the road scheme was £25million.

He said the review was "a step in the right direction" but that protesters would remain at the site until the project had been officially scrapped. He said: "Considering what the outcome could have been, we are relieved at this stage but we don't want to assume anything.

"We still believe there is a chance it will be scrapped. Why else would the Government not release the full money for it?"

If the council gets the go-ahead for the scheme, it will face the headache of having to evict the Camp Bling stalwarts.

It is understood the council estimates the eviction will cost £500,000 - but campaigners say the figure is more likely to top £1million. No moves will be made until Government approval has been secured.

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