Conservative councillors slam Southend Council plans for cycleway on Thorpe Hall Avenue

Two Conservative councillors have accused the council of keeping residents in the dark over plans to add a cycleway to Thorpe Hall Avenue.

Southchurch ward councillors Alex Bright and Daniel Nelson have taken it upon themselves to deliver letters to residents informing them of the cycleway plan, which they claim has left people “livid”.

The plan would introduce a temporary cycle route on Thorpe Hall Avenue at a cost of £120,000 from the Government’s Emergency Active Travel Fund, which was provided in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, there is no plan or deadline for the route’s removal later in the future leaving the Conservative councillors fearing they are “being asked to sign-off on a temporary scheme that will become permanent”.

Cllr Bright said: “We are conscious that the administration has no intention to consult residents on this scheme, so we felt that it was of vital importance that we informed our residents who live on the boulevard of the proposals and that we seek their views, before council officers ask us whether or not we will give it our sign-off.

“Let me be clear. We will take our instruction from the majority will of our residents. We will not agree to anything that our residents do not want and we will continue to stand-up for our residents.”

Southend Council’s deputy leader rejected claims that people were being kept in the dark over the plans as they are not finished. He further explained it would not be permanent unless people wanted it and this would require further funding.

He said: “Alex Bright and Dan Nelson worked with officers to design what they term as a cycle path down the centre of Thorpe Hall Avenue in the Southchurch ward.

“At the beginning of this I said if any ward has a majority of councillors that object to this active travel plan then say so and we will go to another ward to look at installing something there. This has happened in the Chalkwell ward.

“But in this case they sat with council officers and designed a cycle route. This is not me dictating they should do this – they did it.”

He explained the situation with Thorpe Hall Avenue is further complicated by the fact that Cllr Woodley represents the southern end of the road while the Tories represent the north.

As Cllr Woodley does not want the same scheme, two separate plans are being developed.

At the end Cllr Woodley represents, he said they are only considering a cycle path on the west side of the road close to the golf course and away from houses.

While the centre of the road will be designed for pedestrians to allow for greater social distancing.

When asked if having two separate schemes on the same road would be problematic, Cllr Woodley suggested political rivalry was to blame and the Southchurch councillors “don’t want to talk to me”.

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Steve Shaw

Local Democracy Reporter