Trees could be ‘relocated’ to widen Southend road

A controversial plan to widen Priory Crescent in Southend would rely on “relocating” trees from the side of the road and into Priory Park, a leading councillor has stated.

Kevin Buck, councillor for highways, transport, and parking, has said the scheme to create an extra lane on Priory Crescent and relieve traffic at Cuckoo Corner must not include “losing the trees”.

This could include transplanting the trees – digging up the roots of the trees and surrounding soil before replanting them.

The scheme, initially put forward in 2004, was widely fought against by campaigners to protect the Saxon King burial ground found on the site and the mature trees.

Cllr Kevin Buck

Cllr Buck’s comments followed a suggestion at full council by Stephen Aylen, non-aligned councillor for Belfairs Ward, who called for the 2004 plan to be resurrected to end the misery for motorists.

He said: “The option for widening Priory Crescent is one that has been considered before, however, there are still potential options that could be considered without affecting the Saxon King burial ground or losing the trees, but this would be subject to a feasibility study and of course funding.

“This option could include re-locating the mature trees in Priory Crescent into Priory Park itself, however, none of these options have been formally considered, passed a feasibility study or been costed and any works here would require considerable funding to achieve a solution.”

The 2004 £25million plan sparked the Camp Bling protests which saw a camp set up on the site of the Saxon king’s burial. It stayed in place for almost four years.

Daniel Cowan, leader of the Labour Group, successfully tabled a motion to improve the junction but disagrees with the proposal.

He said: “I don’t think that’s something we should be looking at. The intention of the motion was to give council officers a direction to go and look at what could be done rather than to design anything in the meeting.

“We’re not looking to support or rule out anything at this stage. Widening that road to the old design resulting in the loss of many mature trees is not something I would support.”

Cllr Cowan added: “Lots of our residents have ideas of what they would like. Some people want the whole roundabout to be traffic light controlled. Some want all the traffic lights to be removed. Some want the pedestrian crossing to be moved back a few metres and others want a box junction.

“There are so many different solutions but it’s really up to our qualified highways engineers to tell us what’s feasible.”

Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter