CONTROVERSIAL plans for a two-metre high seawall across Shoebury Common which 80 per cent of residents are opposed to, have been backed by councillors without debate.
Dozens of residents packed into the Civic Centre to hear about Southend Council’s proposals to protect up to 500 homes from rising sea levels.
At the outset, John Williams, the borough solicitor, warned members of the latest scrutiny committee meeting they were not there to say whether they were for or against the council’s preferred £4.6million option of building a seawall across the common using earth from Southend’s Cliff Gardens.
The meeting began with a question-and-answer session in which residents’ submitted questions were read out and prewritten answers were given.
This was followed by a presentation after which councillors asked questions, but no debate took place.
The committee then voted the plan through despite overwhelming opposition to the scheme in a consultation earlier this year.
Members of Friends of Shoebury Common, who had put forward their own alternative proposal, dismissed the process as undemocratic.
Ray Bailey, of Parkanaur Avenue, said: “They’re all nodding donkeys and this whole thing stinks.
“It’s not democracy in action, this is Third World dictatorship.
“They should be ashamed of themselves.
“They’re not going to get away with it and we’re going to keep fighting.”
Peter Lovett, of Leitrim Avenue, Shoebury, added: “It’s terrible. I just cannot understand a council having so many people opposed to this scheme and proceeding with it.”
The Environment Agency says 200 homes in Shoebury are at risk from floods which happen roughly once every 200 years.
But council leader Nigel Holdcroft said the risk was very real in the short term.
He said: “We could have that flood this year or next year.
“It is not acceptable to say it might not happen.
“We can’t take a punt that it’s not going to happen. It is an immediate and real risk and we can’t just wait for the problem to happen.
“The evaluation of the scheme is technically challenging.
There was a lengthy presentation after which questions raised by members were dealt with.
“Officers explained why, in their view, this option was the best one. The majority of councillors agreed with that view.”
Ron Woodley, councillor for Thorpe Ward and chairman of the Burges Estate Residents Association, which put forward its own scheme, proposed a cross-party working party to be set up to allow time for more detailed scrutiny of all the proposals but councillors voted against the motion over fears funding would be lost if significant delays were to take place.
A full council may debate the plans at a meeting on Thursday, December 12.