Southend Times
April 29, 2008


Tories' new offer to Priory Crescent protesters

A LEADING Southend councillor has again offered the Priory Crescent protesters: "Pull down Camp Bling, stack your rubbish on the edge of the pavement, we will collect it and start immediately on the landscaping of the 'Land of the Saxon King'."

Coun Mrs Anna Waite, who has responsibility for transport in the town, says: "If the squatters are so concerned about the cost of their removal falling to the Southend tax payer may I suggest that they accept my offer to pack up and go voluntarily,"

Many residents in the area are concerned that Camp Bling - the collection of structures at the top end of Priory Crescent by the railway bridge - has become a major eyesore in the town and the council has been under pressure to clear the site.

It is also on the site where the remains of the Saxon King were found.

Protesters set up there in opposition to the council's original scheme to releive traffic pressure oin Priory Crescent.

Since then, however, the council have submitted a much cheaper scheme - but the protesters' Camp Bling has remained.

The protesters, as members of the Priory Park Preservation Soiety, more recently, revealed that under a freedom of information request they had discovererd that Southend Council had spent £1.8million on drawing up the scheme for Priory Crescent in the period p to July 2006.

Coun Mrs Waite explains: "We want 'The Land of the Saxon King' to be landscaped and a commemorative plaque or similar to be placed there. Had the squatters gone sooner then this work would have been completed by now."

So far, though, Coun Mrs Waite says the protesters have ignored her offer.

She maintains that with so many developments east of the town - a new football stadium, Garons Park improving its leisure offer, more cricket being played, the plans for a new swimming pool and more retail development it was essential that somthing had to be done to improve traffic flow in Priory Crescent.

Coun Graham Longley, leader of the Lib Dem group on Southend Council has already pledged that if his group has any say in the running of the town after Thursday's elections they will abandon any Priory Crescent scheme.

The text of Coun Mrs Waite's statement is on page three.

Why a scheme for Priory Crescent is so important

Executive member for transport and planning

I think it is necessary to clear up some misunderstandings emanating from the freedom of information search, comments from the Department for Transport, the various press articles and leaflets circulating.

The current proposal is to improve Cuckoo Corner by increasing the traffic flow capacity through the junction. It is proposed to do this by changing it from a roundabout to a traffic light controlled junction.

No, there will not be 10 new sets of lights for motorists to traverse, those comments are absolute nonsense. There will be a set of lights at each of the four road junctions, there will be pedestrian crossings either as now or altered, it has not been finalised.

Motorists will approach the set of lights at the junction ahead and proceed through on green just as one would at virtually any other traffic light junction.

Traffic engineers are confident that traffic lights will improve traffic flows.

There will be a short stretch of dual carriageway leading east from Cuckoo Corner to a proposed new filter lane for the Prittlebrook industrial estate.

There will not be a new bridge or full dualling of Priory Crescent, there will be no incursion in to the park nor will the land of the Saxon King be taken or reduced. Many of the existing trees will remain but some will need to be removed and will be replaced within the park on a two for one basis.

The Land of the Saxon King will be landscaped and a commemorative plaque or similar will be placed there. Had the squatters gone sooner then this work would have been completed by now. If the squatters are so concerned about the cost of their removal falling to the Southend tax payer may I suggest that they accept my offer to pack up and go voluntarily, stacking all their rubbish at the edge of the pavement as they do so would also help!

We will pick up the cost of the rubbish removal and make an immediate start on the restoration and landscaping of the Land of the Saxon King. This offer was made to them in good raith last summer but they ignored it.

The estimated worst cost scenario for the whole scheme is approx £11.5m. The council will have to contribute 20% of the cost, the council has already spent &ppound;1.8m LTP funds, not from council tax, on a whole raft of analysis, traffic modelling and on a public inquiry which found in favour of improving the junction.

And indeed a great deal of them oney was spent looking at all the alternatives including the current Lib Dem ideas and the results showed that they did not achieve a sufficient improvement to warrant taking forward.

Also included in the £1.8m was the cost of the archaeological works for the Saxon King. I think it is a great deal of money, but without the modelling and traffic surveys the Government would not even look at the scheme.

The money spent to date will form part of our 20% contribution as will monies from both the football club and the proposed business park as and if they get planning consents. There has been and wil be no direct charge on the Southend tax payer for the Cuckoo Corner shceme, though quite clearly tax payers money via Government will be used.

Also included in the figure for the junction is money to improve the wider area of Hobleythick Lane, Earls Hall Avenue and Manners Ways all of which either have current problems or may need attention should Cuckoo Corner go ahead.

The benefits of these proposals are improved traffic flow, less congestion and thus less air pollution, better and more secure journey times for those running businesses and living to the east.

They also form part of the wider picture of junction improvements from Progress Road to Victoria Station and to Thorpe Bay and beyond. They will be part of an intelligent traffic light controlled traffic management scheme and will have facilities for cyclists and be futre proofed for SERT should it come.

Yes, I want to see more cucling and yes again I want a better bus service that is hy I am leading the campaign for cycling improvements and orking with the bus operators, that is why we have already seen bus service improvements and I suspect there will be more to come.

We, also, have many stations and yes, yet again, I am trying to join all these bits up to provide residents ith a thought through and achievable transport policy. It can't and won't happen over night but we have to make progress as we can and Cuckoo Corner is a lynch pin in the overall picture of infrastructure improvements.

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