Yellow Advertiser
March 13, 2002

Council swayed by Government's £36million carrot


By Rob Allanson
Trees in Priory
PICTURESQUE: Trees in Priory Park
CONTROVERSIAL road plans for Priory Crescent have been backed by Southend Council's Cabinet.

The decision comes after months of passionate campaigning by protest groups determined to protect Priory Park from any development.

Members were told at the meeting last Tuesday that the widening of the Crescent, including the improvements at the problematic Cuckoo Corner roundabout, was a major part of the council's Local Transport Plan.

David Watts, the council's technical services director, warned members that a Government package of £36million could be at risk if this part of the scheme - costing around £4million - was not agreed.

Councillor Roger Weaver, Cabinet member in charge of transport, said the town would be 'foolish' to lose the funding.

He added: "We would all lose out and we would lose face with the Government - and this is not something I want this town to do."

Described as 'part of a grand design for transport' by Mr Weaver, the scheme will see more than 120 trees removed to make way for the dualling of the road - but not from the park grounds, promised Mr Weaver.

However, at the meeting councillors pledged to replace any trees which had to be felled on a two-for-one basis.

Mr Weaver added some trees had suffered at the hands of the campaigners who had nailed placards to them.

He said: "The dual carriageway will be planted with trees and landscaped. So when it is finished it will not be a road on its own."

However, the council still faces stiff opposition to the scheme in the form of a legal challenge issued by the Priory Park Preservation Society (PPPS).

Park plan gets the nod

Society chairman Peter Walker said the road project would take parkland, not just from the disputed shrubbery area by the railway bridge, but also from the northern border of the park itself.

He added: "This land is protected by covenants enforcable by local residents, more than 80 of whom are supporting our challenge.

"We are using a section of the Property Act 1925 which states, although the original agreement to protect the land was between the council and the vendors, once some of the land is sold on the new landowners also have the right to enforce the agreement."

Mr Walker claims that this includes all the households in Victoria Avenue whose properties back onto the park, as well as the residents of Eastern Avenue, Eastern Close and part of Sutton Road.

The Cabinet's backing for the scheme will now go to scrutiny committees before a final decision is made in April.

It is anticipated opposition Labour and Liberal Democrat groups are likely to oppose it.

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