Tory leader slams council for ‘putting money over safety’ on Southend seafront

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The leader of Southend’s Conservative Group has hit out at the council for continuing not to undertake a safety review at the seafront.

Tory leader Councillor Tony Cox has been urging the administration to do a safety audit of the new pedestrian area on Western Esplanade, which has seen paths expanded into the road.

It comes after a section of metal barriers which separates the pedestrian area and the road was blown down during strong winds over the weekend.

However, Cllr Martin Terry (Ind) has said the change is under constant review and a safety audit would just mean an “extra cost to the taxpayer”.

Mr Cox said: “I am astounded that even though you don’t need something done legally, you wouldn’t check its safety. I also can’t believe someone who is responsible for community safety would put money ahead of safety.

“There has been a head on collision down there between two cyclists which required an ambulance to be called, we’ve had cars going the wrong way down there and barriers falling down due to gusts of wind.

“People are hemmed in, there’s no where to go if cars break down. Are we seriously saying that we are not going to do a safety audit on cost grounds?

“It’s frankly one of the most bizarre things to say. You cannot put cost ahead of people’s safety.”

He added that the change was implemented due to a pandemic and for the safety of thousands of people on the seafront so why wouldn’t safety be looked at.

Mr Terry said the measures on the seafront are under constant review and will be adjusted when needed.

“We are not required to have a safety audit on a temporary arrangement and this would be just another cost to the taxpayer,” he explained.

“We have a stakeholder group which regularly meets to discuss this situation. There will always be issues and we will be making adjustments particularly to the barriers which Mr Cox has highlighted. We had to rush a lot of these things through due to the way the Government is making announcements.

“We had some plans in place but no one knew what would be possible until the Prime Minister made the announcement two and a half weeks ago. We are reviewing the measures and they will be adjusted.”

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Steve Shaw

Local Democracy Reporter