Time to rethink notorious Southend junction say ward councillors

Removing traffic lights, introducing box junctions and moving pedestrian crossings have been touted as ways to reduce bottlenecks at one of Southend’s most notorious roundabouts.

St Laurence ward councillors, Daniel Cowan and Lydia Hyde have put forward a motion calling for a major overhaul of Cuckoo Corner in Southend.

The roundabout where Victoria Avenue meets the A127 and Priory Crescent is frequently gridlocked at peak times, adding to high pollution levels recorded there.

The motion, which will be considered at full council on Thursday, said: “Traffic congestion is a major issue in our city, exacerbated by many bottlenecks and areas of high traffic pressure. The Cuckoo Corner roundabout is one such area with regular traffic jams tailing back in multiple directions having a knock-on effect to traffic congestion across the city.

“This junction is a vital gateway to the east of the city for buses and motorists. When clogged, tailbacks can reach the city centre, Kent Elms corner, Sutton Road roundabout, and beyond Warner’s Bridge into Rochford.

“”Natural traffic flow is impeded by an unsuitable layout that includes partial traffic signalling at the roundabout, traffic-controlled pedestrian crossings too close to the junction, and merges in-turn that are too short.”
The councillors have asked that the council consider the layout of the roundabout including removing traffic lights, introducing box junctions and moving pedestrian crossings.

Cllr Cowan said: “What we are looking for is for council officers in conjunction with stakeholders and members to look at various options to try and improve the situation round there. Cycling groups have told us that they don’t feel safe and they will actively avoid it so we know that’s a concern.

“We also know that there are general issues with the volume of traffic around there and the frequency of traffic jams which we believe is caused by the layout.”

Cllr Cowan added: “There are lots of different problems such as on the roundabout itself there are no box junctions which means it gets clogged up and traffic can’t move freely. We also have issues with the exits which don’t all have traffic control signals. There are on some exits but not on others.

“At the bottom of Manners Way we don’t have any lights but as you enter the roundabout there are signals. Because you have a mixed use good practise shows you should either have no signals so it functions as a roundabout or if it’s going to be a traffic signal roundabout it should have traffic signals on all the entrances and exits.

“Some of the pedestrian crossings are incredibly close. All it takes is a couple of vehicles and suddenly you’ve used up all the space. Those are some of things we think need to be looked at.”

Junction’s chequered history

A controversial road widening scheme for Priory Crescent to ease congestion at the Cuckoo Corner junction was first raised in 2004.

The proposed £25million scheme included archaeological excavation during which the an Anglo-Saxon king’s burial chamber was discovered.

The widening of the road would have resulted in the felling of 111 trees and a loss of 300 square metres of public green space. A 20,000 signature petition was raised against the road and protestors set up a camp there which became known as Camp Bling.

On April 23, 2009 at a meeting with the council the authority told the protesters that the road widening scheme had been abandoned, and the protesters agreed to leave within three months.

Work to improve the junction by adding a slip road into Victoria Avenue and traffic lights did little to tackle the problem junction.

The latest call for improvements to the junction includes box junctions, the relocation of the pedestrian crossings, relining the road, improving provisions for cyclists, and improved provision for buses. They also call for phasing of traffic lights, full traffic signalling on all exits and entrances, or the removal of traffic signals to aid traffic flow.

St Laurence ward councillors Daniel Cowan and Lydia Hyde have also called for the publication of existing data around current traffic congestion and any monitoring undertaken at the junction.

Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter