On the Seaway Car Park proposals, again

cineWorldPullsOutI was telephoned by the local press earlier this week in regards to the latest development at Seaway Car Park. I have spoken and written about this a number of times, but I think it is worth re-stating my views on the proposals.

I guess it all begins when one looks at deprivation, and how it clustered largely in the town centre. My post (Quietly raging), written just after my election, is still relevant, and explains why I cannot ignore what is going on at Seaway.

I will use bullet points to summarise what is the issue:

• The town centre wards have significant areas of deprivation.
• The town centre wards also see life expectancy rates more than ten years lower than other wards in the borough.
• Population density and overcrowding are a significant factor in deprivation.
• Whilst I do not suggest stopping all development, I am extremely concerned about further overcrowding an already crowded area.
• Milton also has significant traffic and parking issues.
• The town centre wards also do not have much open space – whilst only a car park, it is open.
• The road infrastructure already struggles to cope with existing traffic volumes – the commercial ventures here will attract more cars.
• There is a loss of parking, although I accept that some of this will be made up by other car parks. However, none are as close to the seafront as this is.
• The nearby residents will suffer a loss of view.
• Is there a need for a second cinema? Whilst I accept this is a commercial decision, I suspect that this will exacerbate the current south/north divide in the High Street – which sees (in my opinion) the southern, seafront, end doing much better than the northern, top, end.

A coach park for Warrior Square – another example of Milton ward being dumped again by the Conservative administration

On Friday one of the Corporate Directors emailed me. Here is an extract from that email:

As you will recall from my briefing on Seaways in the Autumn we identified the need to relocate the coach parking from Seaways Car Park and highlighted areas that we were exploring.

It was agreed to proceed with Warrior Square as the most suitable site for the coach park and this is now within the Planning process.

I responded with a simple question: Who was it agreed by?

After a false start (an email which gave a different answer) I got this: Consultation was with Cllr Cox.

However, there is some dispute as to whether this is factually correct. What is certain is that I was not consulted, let alone given a chance to voice my objection to this.

In the first email, referred to above , this was also included: Part of Warrior Square – good central location, access satisfactory, loss of parking offset by new Essex St. Car Park so minimal revenue implications.

Two issues arise from this. One is that this is only a short-term solution as this area is earmarked for housing and redevelopment. Two, in the budget much was made of the new revenue from the new, temporary, car park at Essex Street. If the scheme goes ahead then this revenue will not be new, merely displaced. The £75000 in the budget will have to be re-visited.

I am less than pleased at the idea of a Warrior Square coach park. It is far too close to residences and the noise and pollution will be increased for those that live in the vicinity. Also, the streets around here are narrow and already are often choked with traffic.

This is another example of Milton ward being dumped again by the Conservative administration. I am also astounded that such an important decision can be made behind closed doors with no oversight by the elected members.

Heart, crowded, bypass, coaches – a quick round-up

Holly Knebel of Heart FM and Cllr Julian Ware-Lane

Holly Knebel of Heart FM and Cllr Julian Ware-Lane

My campaign to deal with the problems associated with Fixed Odds Betting Terminals took another step forward yesterday. I was interviewed by Holly Knebel of Heart FM, an extract of which was broadcast in all of this morning’s news bulletins [http://www.heart.co.uk/essex/news/local/southend-gambling-problems/]. In different circumstances I would have been humbled and delighted to share the headlines with Tony Benn. Southend-on-Sea’s ruling Cabinet will discuss my motion on Tuesday (18th).

At the weekend I attended the East of England Labour Party Regional Board. Amongst the items (which included a presentation from John Denham MP) was the news (to me, anyway) that the UK has the highest density of people per floor space in Europe. No wonder we are all feeling a bit crowded. We need more, and bigger, homes built.

I see that requests for a bypass in the east of the borough are rearing their heads again. Whilst I can appreciate that being stuck in traffic is no fun (I often experience this on my daily A127 commutes), if I were living in Shoeburyness or Thorpe Bay I would be careful what I wish for. Once a good road goes in and access becomes a lot easier, then the place becomes a magnet for developers. Also, in-fill development becomes more likely, meaning the death knell for the fields to the north of the eastern end of town. This will create traffic, and before long all the gains that a bypass delivered will be cancelled out.

I am a little frustrated. I have just (officially) found out that the coaches that use the Seaway Car Park at the moment will, if the administration (there is a game of pass the buck as regards to who authorised this going on as I write) gets his way, once that car park is built on, start using the Warrior Square car park. The car parking spaces that will be lost will be taken up by the car park on the site of the former Queensway House (thus proving that the supposed revenue gain there was a fiction). I am unimpressed by the idea of a coach park so close to the residents of Warrior Square and Whitegate Road. I do not like the idea of the Seaway Car Park being built on, but if it is to go ahead then the coaches must be found a suitable new home. I am unconvinced that Warrior Square can be described as suitable.

Cinema attendance

Sometimes you find the facts contradict expectations, well I do anyway. I was expecting cinema viewing figures to show a downturn, and this was one of the arguments I was going to deploy in my case against the development of the Seaway Car Park.

As this chart shows the viewing figures are all over the place, but clearly do not back up an argument of falling cinema attendance.

It is proposed that multi-screen cinema be built on the Seaway Car Park (mostly in Milton ward, although a part is in Kursaal too). This proposal will, in my view, lead to further development in the area. There are a number of reason why this is a bad idea. Whether we need two multi-screen cinemas in the town is a mute point, and the figures neither back this argument up nor refute it.

(Figures courtesy of the Film Distributors’ Association.)