Queensway underpass plans slammed for “staggering incompetence” after wording mistakes

Controversial plans to fill in the Queensway underpass in Southend may have been signed off by mistake, with Tory councillors now slamming the council’s “staggering incompetence”.

An investigation into how the £575million project was put out to tender revealed mistakes were made in the wording of the bidding process, documents had gone missing and councillors were not given clear information.

Queensway currently has eight lanes, four in the underpass and two either side of it, however the new scheme includes a four lane road without the underpass.

Councillors say they believed the four lane highway referred to the underpass.

Prospective bidders were told the four lane road was a minimum requirement despite it being open to negotiation.

Councillor Tony Cox, leader of the Conservative group, said: “This report for me says at best we’ve got staggering incompetence.

“We can’t have a point whereby decisions were taken but no minutes were taken, documents lost. I can accept people make errors but this goes further than that. How did we get to this because we have got an utter mess.

“At the very least members deserve clarity on what decisions they were taking.”

The plans will see 1,760 new homes built, in blocks ranging from three to 18-storeys.

Cllr Meg Davidson, (Con Prittlewell) prompted the audit of the procurement process and slammed the “ambiguous” language in the initial report.

The audit concluded there had been a lack of clarity with councillors but no bidders had been put off by errors in the procurement process.

Cllr Peter Wexham (Lib Dem Leigh) said: “It’s pretty obvious that everybody has been led up the garden path. The whole thing is a bit of a farce. I was under the impression the board and everybody had agreed this plan about the underpass. As councillors we’ve all been bamboozled.”

The committee made a number of recommendations to the place scrutiny committee, including minutes of project board meeting going to councillors. The committee will meet on October 4 to discuss the issue.”

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter