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 Ware-Lane sandwich

Whilst not quite a hustings veteran I have done a few over the years. I enjoy them, although I still get nervous.

You do live with the fear of being completely stumped by a question. I do not memorise our manifesto or learn whole stacks of statistics, and do not take briefing papers with me. I find that speaking from the heart works for me.

I am not certain how many turned up at St Saviour’s church hall on Thursday night; estimates I have received put it in the 80 – 100 range. It was certainly a lively audience.

The heckling began during my opening remarks which did take me somewhat aback. I was only setting out what I thought was important when choosing who to vote for – I said it was a combination of principles and competence. I am not sure what was especially contentious in that, but the large Tory contingent were determined to give me a hard time.

I kicked off the proceedings, and was last to speak: everything else was sandwiched between.

I sat at the end of the table, next to UKIP’s Brian Otridge (which auto-correction software insists on renaming ‘ostrich’). My opening remarks were limited to two minutes, which was not adequate. However, we all had the same constraint.

It was well chaired, and I am grateful to the Southend Echo for organising it. If I could suggest one improvement it would be for microphones to be used.

I counted eleven questions. These were on the NHS crisis, failing schools, faith and grammar schools, immigration, the European Union, the biggest policy we disagreed with our own parties about, what private members bill would we like to introduce, second homes for MPs, MPs pay, Leigh fishing, can you trust politicians.

I spoke about the need for a properly funded NHS, and that only Labour does this. I would stop the marketization, and would support and work with the local hospital’s management team.

I said academies are turning schools into businesses and are removing local accountability. I also mentioned the unacceptably high number of less than good schools in Southend. I spoke of my preference for universal comprehensive education, and that social mobility was hindered by selective schools.

I said we need a fair immigration system, and that immigration had largely been a good thing for the UK. I spoke of the economic madness of leaving the EU, and the instability that would ensue from two years of debate running up to a referendum.

I could think of no current Labour policy I could disagree with, and that I would like to tweak the Right To Buy legislation so that either a buy-back clause or immediate re-use of funds could be enabled.

I would not need a second home if elected, although I might have to stay in a hotel from time to time. MPs are paid enough, I added.

On Leigh fishing I said the EU rules were wrong and needed changing.

I think we can trust politicians, although some have let us down.

There was some heckling, which is fine. If I could make out what they were saying I replied. It made it lively, and gave the audience a chance to interact with me.

Afterwards one of the hecklers, a Tory, said I was dishonest because I did not put my middle names on my literature. She evidently had no problem with David Amess sticking to his first name and surname. She also did not like me referring to people as comrades – “this is not Soviet Russia”. I did point out that it was a term of affection. She was just not going to like anything I said.

My full name is Julian Gabriel St.John Ware-Lane. Said Tory-Woman thinks it aristocratic, and therefore objectionable. For the record, I am working class and not a member of the aristocracy.

Two simultaneous developments along the seafront

I was asked to write a brief comment about the two developments proposed for areas very close to the seafont in Southend-on-Sea – namely the proposals for the Marine Plaza and the Seaway Car Park. Here is what I wrote, and this appears in today’s Southend Echo.

Notwithstanding my concerns over whether the Seaway Car Park is the right place for the proposed development, the simple answer as to whether a development here and at the Marine Plaza undertaken at the same time is a good idea comes down to a matter of timing.

Doing both developments at the same time does have the benefit of getting all the disruption out of the way all in one go. Whilst it could be argued that this maximises the pain and disruption whilst the works are being undertaken, the closeness of the two projects may also mean that some of the local improvements that will doubtless be required may be able to be shared.

Doing the work during the quiet periods of late autumn and winter should cause minimal interference to both trade and the lives of residents. However, if the works overspill into the local high season then this has the potential to be disastrous for those businesses reliant on the increased footfall that occurs when the sun is out. This is why the timetable is so important.

There are questions, though, that need to be answered about the road infrastructure in the vicinity, and whether it can cope with the extra traffic both whilst the sites are being developed, and once they are up and running. There are a number of bottlenecks that already see congestion at busy times; this is why the site of the Seaway development is so questionable. Whilst I welcome anything that brings extra jobs and housing to the town, I cannot help but wonder why this is being squeezed into an already crowded and busy area – surely a site adjacent to the A127 and Eastern Avenue corridor would not only be more accessible, but also not add to the overcrowding seen in the town centre wards.

Are last orders looming for our traditional pubs?

I was pleased to see that the Southend Echo carried an article recently on the subject of traditional pubs (Closing time – last orders looming for our traditional pubs?)

Traditional community pubs are under threat, and this was why I introduced a motion to Full Council last December to help protect them. I wanted to ensure that planning permission and community consultation are required before community pubs were allowed to be converted to betting shops, supermarkets and pay-day loan stores or other uses, or allowed to be demolished.

My motion was backed by the Labour Group, and rejected by the then ruling Conservative Administration.

The Echo article showed that some historic pubs have already gone. Pubs are not only landmarks, they often are valuable community assets that have rich histories stretching back through the centuries. I think communities should have a say in what happens to them.

UKIP in disarray (a Southend menagerie)

The Southend Echo reports on the falling out between two senior UKIP politicians in Southend-on-Sea. You see, Cllr Waterworth had the temerity to steal one of Cllr Moyies toys; Waterworth beat Moyies in the contest to see who would be UKIP’s Parliamentary Candidate in Rochford and Southend East.

In the report Cllr Waterworth is quoted as saying: “I have asked him to confirm or deny the weasal words attributed to him.”

So, the Lame Duck candidate is calling his leader a Weasal. Animal lovers will be aghast.

I feel compelled to point out that I tried for the Labour slot in Rochford and Southend East and was beaten by Cllr Ian Gilbert. In contrast to UKIP aspirants I can confirm that I am fully behind Ian Gilbert in his attempts to replace the hopeless James Duddridge in Parliament, and that prior to my injury I was out every week in that constituency doing my bit to get him elected.

(I can also confirm that I will be voting for the Labour Candidate in my home constituency.)





How long can this pretence go on?

Cllr Anne Chalk says again, in the Letters page of today’s Southend Echo, that party politics has no place in local government. If she really believes this then should leave her Independent Group, a party in all but name. She will not, and the reason she will not is because she realises that being organised and part of team makes you far more effective.

The real difference between the Independent Group and the parties in Southend-on-Sea is that the parties are at least honest about working together. It surely shows just how ridiculous the Independent Group’s stance is when they start describing their chosen candidates as ‘official’ or ‘real’ members of the Independent Group. At heart they are a collective that fears real debate or being challenged.

As to the shambles that was the Shoeburyness hustings; it was clear that Cllr Chalk wanted a fixed contest, and got it.

Matt Dent’s letter to the Southend Echo

On Monday evening I attended the local election debate at Hinguar Primary School for West Shoebury and Shoeburyness candidates, advertised in your pages (Southend Echo, 9th May). You can imagine my surprise, then, where upon arrival and with no notice I was informed that the terms had been changed and it would be just for Shoeburyness candidates.

The effect was to create a debate only between the sitting Conservative councillor and the Independent candidate (whose group had been involved in organising the event). It was a shame that the debate was so needlessly constrained, particularly given that the main subject of discussion (the sea wall) is primarily in West Shoebury ward, where I am campaigning to represent the residents after the election.

But what angered me greatly was the assertion that the Labour candidate for Shoeburyness had “decided not to turn up”. This was absolutely not true. Maggie Kelly was unable to attend due to the short notice and her working commitments, which is the very reason that I – as the candidate for West Shoebury – was to take part in the debate.

Labour’s voice was deliberately cut out of the debate and I am very disappointed that the organisers resorted to this, as Labour is the only party in Southend with an optimistic and forward-looking plan for the borough. A cynic might wonder if this was the reason I was not allowed to participate.

Matthew S. Dent
Labour candidate for West Shoebury


Matt has also written on his blog about this issue: How Labour was cut out of the Shoebury hustings

Misrepresented by the Southend Echo

EchoWRONGI think I have a good relationship with the local print media, and I try to cooperate as much as I can. On the whole I find their reporting even-handed. Sometimes they get it wrong.

Yesterday’s Echo carried a very misleading article about me. Worst of all I am heavily quoted without my being consulted. When this normally happens I am pretty relaxed about it; when I am wholly misrepresented I get become thoroughly crosspatch.

My words are taken from a letter that I wrote to the Essex Police and Crime Commissioner (https://warelane.wordpress.com/2014/02/14/my-letter-to-nick-alston-essex-pcc/).

Yesterday’s Echo puts this under the heading ‘Should you give cash to beggars?’ Read my letter and you will find not one reference to either cash or beggars.

I actually got a very good response from the Essex PCC (https://warelane.wordpress.com/2014/02/21/i-wanted-a-response-i-got-a-response-reassurances-about-policing-the-homeless/) – no cash or beggars in Nick’s reply either.

This misrepresentation is important because I get a lot of complaints about beggars in my ward, a ward that, because of its two high streets, attracts beggars. I make promises which the headline here makes look hypocritical.

Let me be clear: whilst I would not judge anyone who chooses to give cash to beggars I have never advocated it or given cash myself. When I am told about nuisance begging I always go to the Police, who provide an excellent service in dealing with it.

Those who beg need help – my advice is to give to the charities that help and support them. If you must give something to the beggars buy them a hot drink or a sandwich.

Notwithstanding this, I am trying to be a friend to the homeless and needy and stand by everything I have written in my blog about them.

I am very disappointed with the Southend Echo, and hope that they carry a correction piece soon.

Confused Tories #3

In today’s (February 25th) letters page of the Southend Echo is a missive from David Burzotta, (Conservative) Candidate Westborough ward. He criticises Cllr Martin Terry for his decision to stand down this year in Westborough in order to stand in Thorpe ward.

I, too, find fault in Martin’s decision.

However. Mr Burzotta asks: “Why is he creating extra cost for the taxpayer …”

I am intrigued. Perhaps the Southend Echo could inquire of Mr Burzotta how and what this extra cost will be? Aside from a few extra sheets of paper required for nominations, the by-election runs alongside the other May local elections, and therefore there is no real extra cost at all.

I would suggest that Cllr Kaye incurred more cost by switching sides mid-term – which necessitated not just extra paperwork but also councillor and officer time.

Yes, it’s me

At the front, in the yellow tie; me, present at Friday’s Candlelight vigil at Priory House.

Whatever your views about the cuts you cannot but be moved by the plight of those resident who fear being moved.