Opposition calls for rethink on Queensway underpass plan

Controversial plans to fill in the Queensway underpass in Southend should be reconsidered, opposition leaders say.

The £575million transformation of the Queensway estate in Southend will see the underpass filled in and a four-lane road threading through new tower blocks.

Those opposed to the scheme say the underpass is vital to channel heavy traffic in summer months quickly through the town centre and down on the seafront.

The new road, with crossings and traffic lights, will almost certainly slow traffic, create congestion and pollution for those living in the new tower blocks.

Conservatives have called on the council to re-enter into discussion with its partner Swan Housing which is set to deliver 1,760 new homes in the ten-year project.

Councillor Tony Cox, leader of the Conservative group, said: “If you take any notice of elections, it was an issue that people were concerned about, especially those living in the east of the town.

“The council has the brass neck to apply for funding to tackle pollution caused by their own traffic scheme.

“The Government is encouraging sustainable transport. It would be daft not to talk about reducing emissions. It’s important we really think about how we can reduce emissions in this scheme.”

Paul Thompson of the Southend Seafront Traders’ Association, said: “The idea to fill in the underpass is madness. It’s anti car, anti visitor, anti business, and will kill off Southend high street once and for all.

“Residents living in the surrounding areas will suffer severe congestion for many months of the year.”

Cllr Ron Woodley, deputy leader of the council, said the scheme was too advanced for any backtracking on the underpass.

He said: “It’s not realistic to rethink this as £15.2million would be lost from highways infrastructure funding. We would also lose Swan Housing as a partner and we would send a message to developers who would question why they should bother if we keep changing policy.

“We took up the scheme and ran with with some slight tweaks but it was the Conservatives who accepted the underpass being built back up to the surface.”

The plans involve the demolition of the Chiltern, Malvern and Pennine tower blocks and the residential maisonettes fronting Sutton Road.

They will be replaced with modern homes with shops, cafes, offices, a nursery, recording studios, a brewery and bakery.

A tree-lined boulevard will be created through the area with pedestrian inks from Victoria Avenue to the High Street much improved.

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter