Philip Miller, executive chairman of the Stockvale Group​ which owns Adventure Island, hits back at criticism over the cancellation of the Southend Marathon

Much has been said about the cancellation of the proposed Havens Hospices marathon, some of it sullying my company’s reputation.

I thought it would be helpful if I set out our position on this matter.

Eighteen months ago we and other seafront traders were approached by Havens Hospices, who said they were under instruction from Southend-on-Sea Borough Council to discuss the possibilities of running a marathon outside our businesses and what effects it might have.

As lifetime supporters of Havens, which we believe is a superb local charity; of course we were more than happy to see this event go ahead.

Our only provisos were that there should be no road closures and no loss of parking.

We have found time and time again over the years that either of those taking place totally destroys our trade on that particular day.

We know there is a public perception that events such as marathons, carnivals, air shows etc (all of which involve road closures) bring extra trade to the town, but this is simply not true. We can show you years and years of hard evidence that proves beyond any doubt that events such as these are detrimental to local businesses like ours.

If you offered the Southchurch Road or Leigh traders a marathon or any event that involved banning cars and parking whatsoever I have a pretty good idea what the answer might be!

Whatever is claimed a total road closure would have lasted all day unless all six hundred runners were record breakers!? I could have closed early or not opened at all (particularly as none of the staff would have vehicular access to the park) – but that is not fair on my 500 plus staff being forced into losing a day’s wages.

We have little enough seafront parking as it is, but losing upwards of 1000 spaces on a potentially busy day has been consistently proved as detrimental to business. If we had available another two thousand or so spaces nearby in the town we may well have felt different.

Southend is always busy when the sun comes out, and this can be any time of year, not just high days and holidays.

Even over last week’s half term, with dull weather most days, there were very few spaces to be had.

Following that initial consultation with Havens, we heard no more about this proposed marathon for 18 months until a fortnight ago - and this was second hand and not directly from the charity.

I applaud the actions of Southend Council for doing the right thing and not being pressured by the Havens representatives who had not followed the proper procedures that are specifically in place to ensure that when public events take place in Southend that everyone is a winner. As I say again – I have always been a great supporter of Havens Hospices, and am sorry this has happened.


Philip Miller, MBE

Executive Chairman, Stockvale Group