CONTROVERSIAL plans to build a 7ft seawall in Shoebury have been put on hold – and could be scrapped altogether.
Martin Terry, who is now Southend councillor responsible for public protection, says officials have been told to go back to the drawing board and find a scheme which will be “acceptable to the public”.
The £5.18million Shoebury Common Beach seawall would have been built using 44,000 tonnes of soil displaced by earthslips on Southend cliffs.
The plan attracted huge local opposition during public consultations and 2,000 signed a petition calling for a public inquiry.
It was a key issue in last month’s council elections,which saw the Tory administration behind the scheme lose control of the council.
The new Labour, Lib Dem and Independent coalition running the council has promises to reviewall the options for improving sea defences for 237 homes and 58 businesses along a 1,000- yard-long stretch between Ness Road and Thorpe Bay Gardens.
Mr Terry said: “The most important thing is the people of the town rejected the proposals as they were.
“We have listened to them and we are now reviewing the whole project to find a scheme acceptable to the public.Wewill have to apply for funding again, but we have to do the right thing. We will carry out a thorough review which will have less impact on ShoeburyCommon. We will start from scratch.
“I believe the problem with the previous scheme was it was entirely predicated on a big pile of mud. The brief was to design the seawall that had to use that pile of mud.
“I believe, if we used a lightweight material, it could be put on top of the existing seawall to give it the extra height. It has been done successfully elsewhere.
We would then recharge the beach.
“It has worked in other parts of the town.”
Campaigner Peter Grubb’s cafe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, would have had its sea views blocked by the wall.
He said: “They are going back to brass tacks and back to the stage where they will review all the options on the table.
“I’m absolutely delighted common sense has prevailed.
The previous administration refused to listen to the people of Shoebury, who wanted their views considered and it paid the price.”
The seawall about-turn is the latest reversal of schemes mooted by the previous, Tory administration.
Last Friday – a day after it was voted in – the new council cabinet announced it was halting plans to cut back the borough’s library service, almost halving the number of staff.
Thorpedene and Friars libraries, both in Shoebury, would have been closed and replaced by a new library in Delaware Road.
Plans to run Westcliff and Southchurch libraries, using volunteers, with only a limited number of paid staff at Leigh and Kent Elms libraries have also been axed.
THE decision to put the seawall plan on hold could mean the borough will lose £3million in Environment Agency funding, a senior Tory councillor has warned.
The agency is already reviewing the scheme in the light of the new administration’s reservations about it. It has said it will not commit funding to sea defences until a replacement scheme is drawn up.
John Lamb, who was deputy council leader until the Tories lost control of the council, said he was worried the change of heart would mean the cash would be lost for good.
He added: “I feel very sorry for the people at risk of flooding next winter.
The Environment Agency has many other schemes which require funding, so we could lose it.
“We looked at many ideas and they didn’t stack up. The option that went forward was the most cost-effective and reliable and would have lasted another 50 years or more.”
A recent letter from the agency said: “The project will now not go to our Large Projects Review Group.
The new council at Southend has undertaken to carry out a review. We will wait to hear the results.”
Martin Terry, the new councillor responsible for public protection said the council would apply for new funding once it had decided what it wanted to do.