More conversations about that museum

All politics is local is the often used quote, a reference to the principle that ultimately a politician’s fate is linked to the views and whims of his voters.

If this phrase is at all true, then those politicians reluctant to engage with their electorate are taking a gamble. I am no gambler; if my modest success is in any way down to me then my persistent door-knocking is a key factor.

Despite the weather and recent distractions I have managed to put in some time canvassing. I have also had a fair flow of electronic communications. I am not about to claim that all these conversations have been about Southend-on-Sea Borough Council’s plans for a museum in the area of cliff slippage, but certainly this has been in the majority.

The cliffs at Westcliff-on-Sea had a major slippage a decade ago, wiping out the beautiful gardens in a significant chunk, necessitating the area to be fenced off. This has also meant that an area of pavement on Western Esplanade has had to be closed. Solutions have been costed in the millions, and the cash-strapped council has had to look for private investment to help pay for the repair.

Private investment is rarely purely philanthropic, and the proposed solution, whilst fixing the slippage and accommodating the finds from the Saxon burial found in Priory Crescent, also includes a significant enterprise factor.

My first conversation on the proposals yesterday was with that rarest of beasts – someone who was ambivalent on this issue. I also encountered a couple of residents who were happy with the plans. I accept that my limited inquiry into the views of the locals is neither scientific nor extensive, but I can honestly say it has surplanted parking as the number one issue of late – and anyone who troubles themselves to speak to Milton residents will appreciate the enormity of that statement.

Most conversationalists had major concerns, if not outright objection, to the plans.

The enormous cost (now approaching £50 million) would always see this decision as significant – add in the obvious and animated discontent and this issue is now assuming number one spot in some quarters. Comparisons with the super-casino plans for Westcliff beach and Camp Bling come to mind.

I also came across another, almost extinct, animal: a young Liberal Democrat supporter. These are like hen’s teeth in Milton. Even this one conceded he would tactically vote Labour in my ward.

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