TORY MP James Duddridge has finally joined the chorus of voices calling for Southend Council to scrap its controversial Shoebury seawall project – after support for his party collapsed in last week’s polls.
Rochford and Southend East MP Mr Duddridge is urging the newly-elected council to reconsider the old Tory administration’s plans for a 7ft-tall seawall across Shoebury Common.
His call came after Tory candidates were roundly beaten in all ten council wards in his constituency – with the seawall issue one of the hottest topics of the local election campaign.
Mr Duddridge, who, until now, has hardly commented on the seawall issue, said: “Given the election results and speaking to people on the doorstep, it’s untenable for the seawall to go ahead as it is.
“I absolutely believe we need improved flood defences in some form, but it’s untenable to press ahead without public support.
“Local councillors have to thrash out a solution, based on an understanding of the problem and an understanding all options have been considered.
“It’s politically untenable for a Conservative minority administration or a coalition to press ahead with it, but it’s also untenable to abandon Shoebury to floods.”
Former Tory councillor Tony Cox, the man who worked so hard to push through the seawall scheme was one of those ousted in last Thursday’s poll in Shoebury, along with colleague Roger Hadley.
Both were beaten by candidates campaigning on an anti-seawall ticket.
Tories also lost Southend Council seats in Kursaal, Milton, Southchurch, St Luke’s and Thorpe wards, and Rochford Council seats in Rochford and Foulness and Great Wakering.
Southend’s previous Tory administration tried to pushed the seawall plan through in the face of opposition from 80 per cent of those who replied during public consultations and 2,200 letters of objection.
Mr Duddridge criticised the council’s handling of the seawall issue last November.
Yesterday, Mr Duddridge laughed off claims by Southend Ukip leader James Moyies that his party would unseat him in next year’s general election.
TheMP said: “I have gone from a 5,000 majority to an 11,000 majority by working hard for my 21,000 constituents.
“I have built up relationships, been out and about to 250 events, as well as representing residents in the Commons.
“The good people of Rochford and Southend East will not be duped by some false alternative.
“It will be Miliband or Cameron in Downing Street and that will mean people coming back to the Conservatives.”
John Lamb, who now leads the diminished Tory group on the council, was unavailable for comment.