Southend Times
March 5, 2002


'Abysmal response' to consultation


SOUTHEND Council Cabinet will be told this afternoon that up to 130 trees may have to be cut down to make way for a new dual-carriageway along Priory Crescent.

But less than 10 are within the boundary of the park itself and almost half of these are in a poor condition and would soon have to be replaced anyway.

Majority of the trees to be removed are in the area near the railway line and many of these are in poor condition, too.

Southend Council has pledged that for every tree removed they will replace them with two semi-mature trees.

These facts will be given to councillors as the Southend Tories put their control of the council on the line by opting to go to the full council on April 25 - two weeks before the council elections - to push through their plans for easing traffic congestion in Priory Crescent.

Council leader Charles Latham made it clear this week: "I have never pulled away from making a difficult decision if I feel it is right for the town.

"The Government have given us the money to get on with the job - and if we don't meet their timetable we could lose this money and other traffic schemes would be in jeopardy, too.

"Nobody must be in any doubt about our proposal. There is no intention whatever to encroach on Priory Park."

He said he wanted to make this clear because "I am aware there is a considerable amount of scaremongering and misinformation pedalled."

He said: "What we have to consider is the overall benefit to the people in the town.

"The traffic congestion in Priory Crescent is unacceptable and causes considerable pollution.

"The Local Transport Plan - which contains the commitment to ease this congestion - has been accepted by all parties, and was drawn up when the Lib Dems and Labour were in control at the Civic Centre."

Coun Latham said he was very disappointed that so few people responded to the formal consultation in the CIVIC NEWS.

"From the conversations I have had with many residents it does seem that it is a vociferous minority who are trying to persuade us to abandon our plans, but in actual fact the silent majority understand why it is essential and why we must press on with the process."

Commenting on the 20,000 who had signed 13 petitions, Coun Latham said: "Firstly, not all of the people who signed the petitions live in Southend.

"Secondly, I don't believe that the people gathering these signatures have explained all the facts to the people who have signed them."

In fact, less than 0.2% of the households that received Southend Council's CIVIC NEWS - containing details of the plans to relieve traffic congestion along Priory Crescent - bothered to respond to the consultation exercise.


Southend Council says 70,000 copies of the civic newspaper were delivered to households with an invitation to express whether they were in favour or against the council's plans - and there were only 95 responses, of which only 67 were against the proposal, with 16 in support and 12 against.

But the council reported that they have received 13 separate petitions - containing a total of 20,000 signatures.

Southend's Tory-led Cabinet will be told today: "Whilst acknowledging the objectors environmental and related concerns about the preferred scheme, some of the petitions must be treated with caution as they imply land within the Priory Park will be taken for the proposals, one petition specifically referring to 'a road through the Park'.

"At least one of the petitions also relates to the period prior to the identification of the council's preferred option which does not involve taking land from Priory Park."

Once it is agreed by today's Cabinet it will be recommended to a full meeting of the council on April 25 - and once agreed there a detailed design for the work will be drawn up involving consultations with affected landowners, utility companies and Railtrack.

Southend Council already have the money to do the work - so there should be little delay now for solving what has been one of the town's biggest traffic congestion blackspots for years.

The biggest petition came from the Priory Park Preservation Society - and was signed by 11,271.

They claim that Priory Park was dedicated to the people of Southend "to be held used and enjoyed in perpetuity as a public park."

It made clear: "We the undersigned are opposed to any plans for the widening of Priory Crescent, which will encroach upon the Park's area or cause damage to any mature trees in the Park or Priory Crescent."

Protesters also claim that the council do not have the support of the business community for their plans - but Coun Roger Weaver, executive councillor responsible for highways said this week that they had letters of support from the Chamber of Commerce and the seafront traders.

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