What if we could create an urban woodland somewhere in Southend-on-Sea

Sherry, Graham and Jamillah

Sherry, Graham and Jamillah

I was invited to attend the latest What If… session last night (anyone can go along, I just happen to know a couple of people involved). We met upstairs at The Railway Hotel. The evening was hosted by Sherry Fuller, ably aided by long-time friend Graham Burnett.

By the end I was able to talk about a long-cherished aim of mine, I desire for an urban wood somewhere in the borough. (I cannot recall exactly when this idea first planted into my consciousness, but it at least dates from March 2011.

The Borough of Southend-on-Sea is blessed with a number of wonderful parks. These exist because of far-sighted and beneficent citizens of this town in years gone by. Not much in the way of new green spaces has been made during my lifetime, and this is understandable. A growing population clearly puts stress on open and undeveloped spaces.

What I wrote three years ago is worth repeating: I want to investigate the possibility of having urban woodland within the borough. These need not be vast tracks set aside for trees; house-sized plots can be used. I do not want demolition of existing structures to create these urban woodlands, but do see areas around the borough that would make ideal sites, areas without buildings, or where buildings have already been knocked down.

I believe an urban wood has merit on a number of levels. It gives back to nature and helps in the fight against climate change and pollution. It provides a space for wildlife (and could be integrated into a green corridor). It also has educational possibilities – schools and young people could be asked to create the woodland and maintain it, as well as using it to explore.

Its biggest selling point, in my opinion, is that it would be a place of repose, and recreation, for all.

In addition to my pitch for urban woodland I think I was able to persuade a gorilla to do some guerrilla gardening. Watch out for Dusty Bottems and a bunch of bananas at a waste ground near you …

A good evening, and I hope to take part in future events. I hope to see some of you there too.

My letter of objection to the proposed lagoon

Cllr Anne Jones has kindly agreed to read this out at Wednesday’s Development Control Committee

Dear Sirs

Application 13/01411/BC4M

Form lagoon, erect single storey toilet block and associated landscaping

Owing to work commitments I am unable to attend this meeting of the Development Control Committee. I would be grateful, therefore, if you would be able to take this letter into consideration when considering the merits of the application to form a lagoon on the foreshore.

I oppose this application, and I have four reasons for doing so.

These, in précis, are that I object to any building on the foreshore as it is special and a cherished natural resource that must not be allowed to disappear. I object to the destruction of the natural environment that this application would cause. I object to see a long-standing yacht club threatened with extinction. And finally, I object to seeing Southend-on-Sea converted into a plastic version of Marbella.

Building on the foreshore: In my opinion we already have too much development on the foreshore. Every new application that is allowed makes the next one easier to make. The foreshore is special, and is enjoyed by vast numbers all year around. Its enjoyment is largely derived from unspoilt views of the beach, the Thames (and North Sea), and the estuary. Every time a structure is erected this vista is eaten into.

Natural environment: The extensive foreshore is a significant area for biodiversity being designated as international and European sites for nature conservation. The Seafront Area is not a defined area but relates to any area that has a material relationship with the Seafront. The Seafront is also an important component of Southend-on-Sea’s heritage that has defined the development and form of the town. The foreshore is Southend-on-Sea’s most valuable amenity, biodiversity and natural resource and is recognised as such by international, national and local designations.

These are not my words, although I agree with every one, but are taken from the Council’s own documents. There is not only the disturbance to the immediate area, but what affect this could, and would, have on a wider scale. I understand that sometimes we have to develop on natural areas, but surely this is a last resort measure, and only for essential schemes like houses and health facilities.

Alexandra Yacht Club: The Alexandra Yacht Club was formed in 1873. It is the fifth oldest in the UK, and the ninth oldest in the world that is still sailing today. It has 350 members, of which about 22 are cadets (youngsters under 18). Its facilities are also used by the TS Implacable (who have something like 45-60 cadets). The lagoon threatens this club’s existence as the lagoon makes the slipway which the AYC uses dangerous. The lagoon, as proposed, is a mere fifty feet from the slipway. With the prevailing south-westerly winds that are seen here it is not difficult to imagine the clubs dinghies struggling to avoid colliding with the lagoon. I am told that many members would consider it too dangerous to use.

The beaching of dinghies, necessitated by changing weather conditions, is a frequent occurrence (four or five times a year on average). This becomes very challenging, if not impossible, if there is only fifty foot of beach to use. There is a threat to life and limb if dinghies cannot remove themselves from the water safely when required.

The lagoon makes sailing dangerous for children.

Plastic Marbella: I appreciate that my tastes will not tally with everyone, but I am aghast at the tacky and tasteless drive to make this town a pale imitation of a Mediterranean resort. I have made my feelings known about palm trees, which do almost nothing for the local environment. Lagoons and palm trees are what people expect in tropical climates (which are becoming even more accessible with the success of London Southend Airport). I do not believe that visitors to the seafront expect, or want, to see anything other than a traditional English seaside resort. Besides which, most of the palm trees look decidedly sad for much of the time and attract far more derision than praise in the experience of this councillor.

Yours sincerely

Julian Ware-Lane


The Big Tidy Up in Burdett Avenue

Cllr Ware-Lane with Keeley Boissinot

Cllr Ware-Lane with Keeley Boissinot

Cllr Ware-Lane (far left), Cheryl Nevin (third from left), Grant Blackwell (fifth from left) with some of the residents – and a big pile of rubbish

Cllr Ware-Lane (far left), Cheryl Nevin (third from left), Grant Blackwell (fifth from left) with some of the residents – and a big pile of rubbish

Milton Labour candidate Cheryl Nevin joined Cllr Julian Ware-Lane and residents in a three hour clean up in Burdett Avenue, Westcliff-on-Sea. This was organised by the Burdett Avenue Neighbourhood Watch.

Footpaths, alleys, and gardens were cleared as a small mountain of rubbish was accumulated.

The clear-up started at 11am. As time went by more and more neighbours chipped in to help. Over a dozen people gave up their spare time, and this number included people from the wider community. One young lady told Cllr Julian Ware-Lane that she turned just because she felt she wanted to help out.

The street certainly looked a lot cleaner by the end and a real community spirit was on display. The amount of rubbish collected just three hours was incredible – this is one part of Westcliff-on-Sea that looks a lot better now. Grant Blackwell, coordinator for the Burdett Avenue Neighbourhood Watch, hopes to repeat this exercise every six months or so. A regular tidying up exercise should ensure that Burdett Avenue remains an attractive place to live in and visit.

Grant Blackwell said: “I may have arranged this street clean up, but it was only made possible from all the hard work from the residents who have pulled together today. Let’s hope people think twice before dumping their rubbish in our area.”

Another correspondent on those Shoebury flood defences

Recently I was contacted by Dave Lee; I think he wrote to all of Southend-on-Sea councillors. We were actually copied into his correspondence with the borough’s Chief Executive. What follow’s are Mr Lee’s own words:

I am sorry to have to draw the following to your attention, but as I cannot make any progress with the Southend Borough Council Cabinet Leader on this subject, I need your assistance.

It is clear to me and many other residents that Option 1 was adopted by the Council in an unauthorised manner. i.e. It did not follow the Council’s protocol for such matters (the time given to discuss relevant facts and figures was cut short) and resulted in unsafe evidence being presented to voting council members. In my opinion this is a blatant case of maladministration and needs to be rectified.

I accept that Option 1 may be the best option, but until all the facts and figures of all options are scrutinised and verified as being correct, one cannot be sure.

I can understand the Council being under Government pressure to meet targets for the development of new homes in our area and the pressures being made by potential developers. However, this should not be an excuse to push through the Option 1 in a bid to improve the chances of making land which is classified by the Environment Agency (EA) as potentially high flood risk, into land for the development of new homes. You will see from the attached letter that the EA will not be changing their classification of ‘Flood Risk’ for this area, even if Option 1 is adopted. There maybe an improvement to the flood defences of the land, but the serious risk of flooding from the sea will still remain.

Under the current climate I do not believe the Government would thank any Council for putting residents lives or their properties at unnecessary risk of flooding on the pretence of meeting housing targets.

Will you please remind Councillors that just because the Council is exempt from prosecution from any charges of Corporate Manslaughter they do have a moral responsibility not to make decisions that could put human life in unnecessary danger. i.e. Promoting the building of homes which would be located in the front line of any future sea defence breaches. Also please remind Councillors of the importance of them declaring any personal interests they may have with such a proposed housing development.

What Mr Lee refers to are the proposals for the improvements to the Shoebury flood defences.

I responded thus:

I know I am only copied in for information, but I thought you might appreciate my opinion.

I have written on this subject a few times on my blog – these can be read here http://warelane.wordpress.com/?s=flood+defences

In short, everyone (almost) seems to agree that the sea defences at the east of the borough should be improved. It then comes down to a choice of which scheme, and I cannot get away from affordability.

However, the council has not sold this scheme at all well, and there are still some unanswered questions.

This elicited the following reply:

I agree with you that vital sea defences in this area are necessary and a key factor in deciding which scheme is to be chosen will depend on affordability issues.

Your past blog comments on this subject were most useful to me as I have only recently been triggered into action after reading an article in the Thorpe Bay January 2014 Issue of the Oracle magazine titled ‘Is this called Democracy’. One of its claims was that the Council cost estimates in 2012 were £2M and now total costs are being estimated in excess of £15! for their preferred sea defence option. If these claims are accurate then they warrant further debate by all interested parties.

My budget speech from last night’s full council meeting

I note that this is Cllr Holdcroft’s final budget. I have only seen two of them, but if the rest were as miserable as these two then I can understand the Leader’s desire to escape this place.

Again it is a story of cuts, job losses, and the diminution of public services. It comes to something when we almost celebrate a £7.3 million cut because of the significantly larger set of cuts that was promised at one point.

Some of the reductions come through efficiency savings, which rather begs the question as to why anyone would think it wise to have inefficient services in the past – although the answer may be that efficiency is a euphemism here.

Do I detect a pattern in the recent budgets? Large cuts last year, and no elections. Tough elections for the administration this year, and much smaller cuts. Expected large cuts again next year, set against the backdrop of a General Election…

It is not all bad. I am pleased that we are to see the borough’s street lights replaced by LED lighting. Obviously my informal prompting here has worked. This achieves two long term aims, a reduction in cost for the council and therefore the taxpayers in the borough as LED lights use less electricity (and perhaps we can have a look at those street signs that are permanently on while we are at it). It also helps to fulfil our obligations under the Nottingham Declaration. However, I believe there is still some way to go and whilst welcoming steps towards a greener borough I think we need to go further, sooner. A seaside community really is on the frontline in the climate change battle.

I am also delighted to see some real money going to highway improvements. I will be pushing for our pavements and road surfaces across the borough (and not just in wards represented by Labour councillors) to be overhauled to a decent standard. I do wonder how we have got to the point where, by the council’s own admission, we have a serious pothole every twenty-two and a half metres. We have saved money in the past by not fulfilling adequately our obligation to have the borough’s roads at a decent standard, and it is car owners and users who have had to foot the bill.

The borough’s pavements are also below the expectations of many residents I engage with, and again I will be encouraging the portfolio holder, whoever that is post May 22nd, to seriously tackle this issue. For too long parts of the borough have stretches of pavement that are impassable for some residents and I see this as a dereliction of our duty towards those who put us here.

Last year saw the borough’s toilets awarded national accolades. I confess to some surprise at this, those in and near my ward are often the subject of complaint. However, it is not just the cleanliness but the number of facilities that worry me. I was disappointed to see no allocation of funds for new, additional, toilets.

I will finish with a question which I hope the Leader will answer when he closes this debate. Amongst the cuts is the deletion of a Cabinet post. Could the Leader tell us who is to be culled?


My remembrances from childhood are of as much spent out of doors as was possible. This included snow-bound Christmases, and only downpours meant time spent at home. Nowadays, childhoods are largely spent enslaved to the latest technological wizardry, or so it seems at times. Of course, this is a gross exaggeration, although it is not an exaggeration to say that today’s youngsters spend less time outdoors than we did in the sixties and seventies. But, we are facing the prospect of seeing a generation to come who will not live longer than we do, and we are seeing disturbing signs of over-eating and lack of exercise in the very youngest.

There have been a number of initiatives to address this, and my particular concern is to see wide open green spaces preserved – including those school fields yet to be sold off. Play England has similar goals. Whilst one cannot seriously expect no greenery to disappear under roads, houses and commercial enterprises, we can ask and expect that access to green spaces be incorporated into any development plans.

I suppose gone forever are the days of tin can football played in nearly carless streets.

Another Shoebury sea defences meeting

The Shoebury Flood Defences meeting called by the Friends of Shoebury Common, at Shoeburyness High School last night, was a somewhat one-sided affair. It was thus because of the refusal to attend by council officers and Conservative councillors.

I can understand why officers would be reluctant and I think it is our (councillors) role to justify council decisions and face the music. Officers, after all, only act on the guidance of the administration. But, I do think it a mistake that the blue ward councillors avoided the occasion.

To be fair to Cllrs Cox et al, I am not convinced that the meeting was well advertised – I only found out through a couple of chance conversations. I also am cognizant of the fact that some will have been otherwise engaged. However, there are nine councillors who represent the three wards most affected by the changes being proposed and only two (Cllrs Chalk and Woodley) turned up – both from the Independent Group. The three wards have five Conservative councillors and surely they could have ensured that at least one of them was present?

In the audience was Cllr Martin Terry, thus making four of the possible 50 present. I doubt that invitations were extended to all councillors and I presume that they thought this is only relevant to those who represent Thorpe, West Shoebury and Shoeburyness. All councillors have a say in what goes on in the town, regardless of ward, and I suggest that organisers of any public event should consider inviting all councillors along.

Those assembled (I estimate somewhere in excess of a hundred and somewhat shy of two hundred) were clearly unhappy, but certainly not aggressive. I have twice voted for the council’s preferred option, and this is widely known. I did not get a hostile reception (anything but) and was positively name-checked. I think that my being prepared to turn up and listen was appreciated.

The event was chaired by Peter Holden, although I am unconvinced that I have got his surname right. There were five speakers, and they were followed by questions and comments from the audience.

Peter Grubb was first on. He explained why Cllr Cox (who is clearly the baddie as far as many present were concerned) and council experts were not present. The excuse was that “there has been enough debate already”. I repeat that I fully understand why officers were not there, but it surely was an own goal for Cllr Cox and colleagues to snub this event, even if they felt they would be going over old ground. A significant chunk of their electorate is unhappy and being unable to hold their councillors to account will only exacerbate this.

Peter Lovett was second up; he read out part of Cllr Cox’s comments at council. There were many complaints regarding Cllr Cox and the (supposed) lack of transparency at the council.

Ray Bailey urged the audience to watch the council webcasts. He condemned the Conservative administration (a developing theme amongst most of the speakers and the audience). He said he had facts that were at variance with what the council expert had stated.

Ron Woodley, present in his capacity as spokesman for the Burges Estates Residents Association, acknowledged the need for improved sea defences but did not want a cheap option. He believes “democracy locally is at risk”.

Cllr Anne Chalk also wants improved flood defences, but not the council’s preferred option. She suggested that the soil taken from the Cliffs slippage could be used at East beach. She also stated that the Tories voted like automatons.

All (well, most anyway) suggested that they wanted a public inquiry, and this is being mooted as a way to stop this development.

Audience members spoke about the need for a beach re-charge, and whether sea defences were even needed. Reference was made to May’s elections (I suspect few present will be supporting the Conservative candidates); there was also the issue of housing development and the feeling that the council plans were a way of getting more homes built.

I made no contribution to the debate, I wanted to listen and assimilate. I have voted the way I have because I do believe that we must improve our sea defences. I have opted for the best value solution. I have taken the view that the council experts are just that – experts. I am not, my decision is based on trust. If it can be proved that the alternatives are cheaper and better then I will readily switch my support.

The councillor’s photo collection #47

One for Armageddon Cox

One for Armageddon Cox

Quite possibly the filthiest stretch of pavement in Westcliff-on-Sea

Quite possibly the filthiest stretch of pavement in Westcliff-on-Sea

Please don't trip

Please don’t trip

A monument to laziness

A monument to laziness



Christmas holiday recycling and waste collection in Southend-on-Sea


Southend on Sea Borough Council has released its waste collection schedule for the Christmas and New Year period:

Normal Collection Day Revised Collection Day
Wednesday, December 25 Friday, December 27
Thursday, December 26 Saturday, December 28
Friday, December 27 Monday, December 30
Monday, December 30 Tuesday, December 31
Tuesday, December 31 Thursday, January 2
Wednesday, January 1 Friday, January 3
Thursday, January 2 Saturday, January 4
Friday, January 3 Monday, January 6
Monday, January 6 Tuesday, January 7
Tuesday, January 7 Wednesday, January 8
Wednesday, January 8 Thursday, January 9
Thursday , January 9 Friday, January 10
Friday, January 10 Saturday, January 11

The borough’s recycling centres will be closed on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Years Day, opening again on Thursday, January 2, 2014.


Black sacks: my recent press commentary

I was asked to make a short comment for the Southend Echo (printed in yesterday’s edition). Here is what I wrote:

One of the duties of a local authority is to ensure the streets are kept clean. I am concerned that the ending of the black sacks distribution is making our streets dirtier. Earlier this year, during the budget discussions, I warned that the removal of these sacks could prove a retrograde step, likely to cost more than any saving made.

At the time I made this comment: “The decision to save £47,000 by no longer providing black refuse sacks is one that could easily be a false economy. Litter and fly-tipping feature large in many councillors’ casework inboxes, and this cut has the potential to make this an even bigger feature. Whilst most households will grudgingly purchase their own supply of black sacks, there will be those who choose either to dump everything in the pink sacks, to use carrier bags and the like, or to just throw their general trash wherever they can get away with it. All these options will increase the workload for street cleaners and will add more woes for the neighbours.

Cutting black sacks saved less than one-tenth of one percent of council tax. I am now being told that some streets are being visited three times a week in order to pick up pink sacks that include general refuse (and therefore not picked up as part of the normal collection). There is a cost associated with this, a cost borne by all council tax payers. We can easily imagine that the remedial work of picking up badly filled pink sacks, etc., will cost more than the intended saving.

Of course I want recycling rates to go up – but how is it to be achieved if residents pink sacks end up being treated as general refuse? I think we should reverse this false economy, and stop annoying our residents. Clean streets must be a priority.


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