Counter-terrorism measures to be implemented on Southend seafront shared space

The shared space on Southend’s seafront is to get extra safety measures following recommendations from counter terrorism experts.

The new safety measures will see a number of vehicle obstructions placed along the shared space area on Marine Parade to prevent vehicles from mounting the curb and causing harm to pedestrians.

Councillor Martin Terry, who oversees community safety, said the council was advised to introduce the counter terrorism measures as a response to the 2016 terror attack in Nice, France, which saw a cargo truck drive into a crown of people resulting in the death of 86 people.

He said: “It was something identified after the incident in Nice and God forbid something were to happen and we’d not listened. It is important to emphasise however that there is no imminent threat, this is just a precautionary measure.

“The threat of terrorism has not gone away it has just morphed into other things ranging from far right extremists to other religious-based terrorists and we are entering into a time of great turmoil nationally so there are all sorts of potential things that could happen.”

It is unclear what form the obstructions will take at this stage but Mr Terry said they would be “more attractive” than bollards and could be concrete flower planters, seating or concrete balls.

The shared space area around City Beach allows pedestrians and vehicles to mix freely and was the subject of widespread safety concerns when it was introduced almost 10 years ago.

Veteran campaigner Jill Allen- King helped launch a campaign against the shared space in 2011 resulting in a 3,500-signature petition against it

She said: “There is no doubt in my mind shared space areas pose a terrorist threat.

“They should never have done it as they pose a great danger to pedestrians who are just walking along, whether that’s from terrorists or any other vehicle.

“There is still concern in the town about these areas. There is nothing to stop anyone driving into crowds on City Beach, particularly at the fountains were so many children play.

“We called for proper curbs and crossings. A substantial curb might at least slow a vehicle down a bit.”

A spokesperson for Southend Council said the safety measure were part of an investment of half a million pounds into security in the town centre and seafront.

“Officers are working to identify a suitable replacement town centre bollards system that will help security and also better management of vehicle access for this high footfall area.

“We are also looking at other high footfall areas along the central seafront, such as City Beach and investigating what suitable measures may be needed to be designed and incorporate into this area too.

“As this is a popular tourist destination, any measures will need to be effective but also be appropriate and fit in with the design and feel of this area which has undergone significant regeneration and improvement.”

Councillor Martin Terry

Steve Shaw

Local Democracy Reporter