THE long-awaited £30million redevelopment of Pitsea has finally begun.
On Tuesday diggers and bulldozers signalled the start of work to transform the town centre beyond all recognition.
The builders started with the controversial bulldozing of Pitsea Swimming Pool, which will make way for a brand new Morrison’s superstore.
But while some were pleased that the town centre is finally getting the facelift it so needs, others were sad at the loss of the pool which councillors and residents had battled to save.
Malcolm Buckley, Basildon Council’s cabinet member for regeneration, welcomed the start of the works which were first mooted six years years ago in September 2006.
He said: “We are seeing the beginning of a substantial investment by London and Cambridge to make sure we have a town centre fit for the 21st century and it is receiving the support of major brands such as Aldi and Morrisons who remain tenants.
“There is obviously a negative with the loss of a pool, but it was a choice between a new town centre and keeping the pool, and I believe the right choice is to make sure we have a town that is attractive for shoppers and businesses.”
But for others the loss of the pool - which prompted a campaign and petition from residents who battled to save it - was still a bitter pill to swallow.
Aidan McGurran, Labour councillor for Pitsea South East who campaigned to save the pool, said he felt the demolition of the pool had been “rushed through”.
He said: “It’s a very sad day and i’m disappointed that the demolition ahead with no announcement from the council.
“The closure of the pool was rushed through and now the demolition of the pool has been rushed through.
“It maybe that i’m wrong, but this seems very premature. It seems they are getting rid of the pool while they can.
“But if anything goes wrong with the regeneration process then we have lost the pool in the process.”
Melissa McGeorge, Labour’s candidate for Pitsea added: “With no set date for the works to commence on the new Morrisons store and no sufficient replacement pool for the residents it seems like the Conservative Basildon Council have just found new ways to upset people they are there to help. The promised shuttle service to the Sporting Village is poorly publicised, inadequate and unsustainable in the long term.
“It seems as though council have ploughed head first into an early demolition to try and prove that the regeneration plans are going ahead, but with no real confirmation this is just another blow to residents who are already dreading the town turning into another Laindon Centre.”
Under the plans to revamp the town - dubbed the Pitsea Masterplan - Pitsea pool, the Railway hotel, part of the market, Aldi and a row of shops will be bulldozed to make way for a 75,000 square foot Morrison’s store.
Aldi and the market will be relocated and six news shops will be created. More than 300 jobs are expected to be recruited in the new stores and supermarket.
The Railway hotel is expected to be demolished in March.