Coach drivers warned as Southend car park expansion prompts heath fears from residents

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A council boss has warned coach drivers to start switching off their engine when parked at the seafront or face being kicked out.

Southend’s deputy leader Councillor Ron Woodley issued the warning after residents living near to the Gas Works car park said they fear a planned expansion will impact their homes, as well as their health.

The expansion is due to be discussed by councillors next week and could see the number of coach bays at the Gas Works doubled along with 100 extra car parking spaces.

Karen Green, 58, said her “heart sank” when she heard the council’s plans.

She said: “I live at the bottom of Arnold Ave and the back wall of the car park is very close to us.

“Last year, as the coaches have been designated to the back of the car park, we had at times more than 15 coaches parked up and running their engines so that their air conditioning would stay on.

“The noise and pollution meant myself and my neighbours missed out on spending time in our gardens let alone the health implications.

“I went round on a couple of occasions to speak to the drivers who were pleasant enough but when I pointed out that I live the other side of the wall they said they stayed in the coaches because it was hot and they could keep cool in there.”

She continued: “We were not asked by the council if we wanted this car park on our doorstep, every weekend the flood lights are on lighting us up like a football stadium at night for no reason.

“The place is empty, this council I feel does more for people who come to Southend and very little for us.”

Councillor Ron Woodley (Ind), who is overseeing the expansion plans, said it is an issue he is looking into and it could mean coaches being asked to leave.

He said: “I want to minimise the impact of this and we will have more enforcement officers and more signage telling coach drivers to switch off.

“If they fail to do so, we will ask them to leave.

“I will not have residents being overly affected by this as it is certainly not fair on them.”

The Gas Works car park is seen as crucial to the council’s hopes for the Seaway car park, off Lucy Road, being redeveloped into a major £50million leisure attraction.

Plans for the Seaway redevelopment are with the secretary of state following significant concerns being raised about the leisure complex removing vital seafront parking.

Mr Woodley has maintained expanding Gas Works is key to solving this problem.

The council’s Development Control Committee will discuss the car park expansion next week.

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Steve Shaw

Local Democracy Reporter