New roads are not the answer

Peter Walker

James Duddridge, MP for Southend East and Rochford, has told the Echo that the protesters currently encamped at Cuckoo Corner are “out of touch with the Town”. I’m afraid that Mr. Duddridge, not for the first time since he left Banking to become an MP, is not telling the truth. The majority of the Town have always been implacably opposed to the widening of Priory Crescent.

Southend Council have been trying for years to widen Priory Crescent and the 9-year-long campaign by ordinary members of the public to stop the damage that this would do to the local environment was successful for one simple reason: the economics of widening the road just didn’t stack up. The benefits in terms of shorter journey times – at best 2 minutes according the Council’s own figures submitted to a public inquiry in 2004 – were completely outweighed by the price tag of £27m. Add in the huge loss of amenity that the felling of 120 trees, the concreting of a unique and hugely significant Saxon burial site and the loss of yet more green space from the ever-dwindling amount of recreational land available to the Town’s residents combined with the overwhelming public opposition (more than 22000 against the road compared to 16 in support according to one Council consultation) it is no surprise that Central Government ultimately refused to fund the scheme.

But if a full dual carriageway the length of Priory Crescent would not have alleviated the undeniable traffic problems at Cuckoo Corner, what possible chance has a shorter stretch of widening leading to the existing double bend bottleneck and single carriageway railway bridge? Clearly none at all: the best that can happen is that a few cars will find themselves stuck in a queue to the east of Cuckoo Corner rather than the west side, a very poor return for an investment of £5m. It will take them at least as long to get past the Sutton Road roundabout to continue their journeys to Thorpe Bay and Shoeburyness.

This latest scheme is the Council wasting money trying to give the impression of progress whilst being stuck firmly in the same rut. They are clueless and only have one policy: to build roads on land that is already in use for other purposes, like walking and recreation. Duddridge knows this but he is part of the problem – a politician who sees economic growth at all costs as the solution to our problems. Unfortunately, there’s no room in Southend for any more cars. If Duddridge and the Council don’t understand this then it’s time they went.

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