Evening Echo
December 1, 2005

Camp Bling stalwarts ready for winter slog

  • Warm welcome - the entrance gate to the ever-expanding Camp Bling, above
  • Watching brief - protesters, right, check over press coverage and maps in their visitor's centre, which is currently being put together
  • Pictures: ANNA LUKALA

    Priory Park road protester numbers continue to grow

    ANTI-ROAD protesters have created a mini village as they plan to see out the winter and continue to fight plans for a dual-carriageway near Southend's Priory Park.

    Three protesters and a tent set up camp four months ago.

    Since, it has mushroomed into a thriving community which even boasts a new visitors' centre.

    Green campaigners have named the site Camp Bling, at 1, King's Burial, Priory Crescent, Southend, following the discovery of a Saxon king's grave on the site. It even has its own postcode - SS2 6LJ.

    The small corner of land, next to the proposed road scheme and opposite Priory Park, is now awash with tents and buildings as news of the camp spreads not just among the people of Southend but nationwide.

    The camp is being transformed into a more premanent settlement with buildings across the site gradually replacing the tents.

    The camp is made up of residents who have been motivated to join the fight after what they feel was an unfair public inquiry against the multi-million pound road scheme designed to tackle the traffic bottleneck at Priory Crescent.

    Southend resident and long-term activist Shaun Qureshi has battled to stop the road expansion for more than five years.

    He said: "Now the weather has taken a turn for the worse it is even more important for us to keep busy to ward off the cold.

    "We are all working hard building tree houses and getting the visitors centre open for people who want to come to the camp and say hello to us all."

    Shaun said with the weather turning for the worse, the camp was in need of more blankets and building materials. There are even plans to link up the whole camp with a system of ropes and walkways in the trees.

    Visitors to the site are now welcomed into a specially designed centre which was the original communal lounge and kitchen when the camp first started to grow.

    The campers want everyone in Southend to feel welcome at the site and the visitors' centre is a key part of this.

    A second tree house has been built and marks a significant point in plans to keep the camp going through what weather experts have said could be the coldest winter on record.

    As the tree houses are raised several feet off the ground they are kept warmer than the traditional tents of the protesters.

    However, visitors to the site might not be quite prepared for the camp's least attractive new building, an eco-toilet.

    The eco-toilet is constructed out of compost and is the best way, apparently, of dispose of human waste on site.

    The camp believes they must have saved themselves at least 80 litres of water.

    And despite the first snow of the winter hitting the camp over the winter, spirits remain high among the froup now numbering in their 30s.

    Murray Foster, Southend Council cabinet member for transport and planning, he said: "People have a right to express their opinion.

    "But this issue went to public inquiry and has been approved, I am really surprised to see they are still there.

    "There is no timescale at this moment for the start of the work, but we are monitoring the situation and once the funding is in place we will begin.

    "I am disappointed the protesters still want to press forward as we have had the inquiry and it came down on our side."

    Shaun added: "We are here for the long run. Our aim is to make sure the work on the road is stopped."

    One of the protesters on the site has a history of taking direct action to stop developments.

    In 1999, Christiana Tugwell, then 15, occupied land at Etheldore Avenue in Hockley in a makeshift camp for four weeks."

    She was angry at planning permission being granted for 66 large homes to be built.

    Plans for a dual-carriageway in Priory Crescent have cleared all planning hurdles. Southend Council is now awaiting news from the Government about funding the road scheme.

    For more information about the fight go to www.savepriorypark.org or call 07817 182394.

  • Poster - the protesters' message is loud and clear
  • Heating up - Owen loads wood into the camp burner
  • Eco-friendly - Ant Bailey with the campaign toilet
  • Support from afar - Ollie Hornbeam with one of many postcards sent from sympathisers in the USA
  • Wish list - the campaign agenda

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