BUSINESS leaders have thrown their weight behind Tory plans to welcome shoppers and visitors with cheaper parking and more spaces - if they remain in power.

A raft of key policies have been proposed by current Tory council leader, Tony Cox, including a bid to restore the one-hour parking band across Southend Council car parks.


Business boss - Philip Miller

When it was introduced, the removal of a fee to park for an hour was derided by businesses and shoppers.

The council would also introduce free two-hour parking in the streets that surround the High Street between Queens Road and Royal Terrace.

Double yellow lines in Lucy Road would be removed and the Tories have pledged to look at “all options” to provide more parking on the seafront and around the Seaway development.

Philip Miller, owner of Adventure Island on Southend seafront, said: “We have been fighting tooth and nail against daft High Street parking charges and lack of seafront spaces for years, it is fantastic news that the new kids on the block have listened and acted so quickly.

“In all my years of surviving the vagaries of different leaders this is the first time I have known anything like it, long may it last.”

Joan Tiney, chairman of the Southend Seafront Traders’ Association, said it was “brilliant news”.

She said: “We are really pleased and I just hope Tony Cox can bring this to fruition.

“The way the council has carried on in the past has been completely against the seafront but this guy sounds like he is in favour of it and that is good for us. I would be very surprised if anyone is against this.”

Councillor Cox said the policies are all part of his promise to change politics in the borough and listen to what residents want.

He said: “With something like the one-hour parking band, we have looked at what we did before and we want to change it.

“We listen when we get things wrong and this was one of those areas where we needed to right a wrong.

“It is the right thing to do.”

Despite enthusiasm for the proposals, a plan to transform the Seaway car park into a multi-million pound leisure development is continuing to loom over the administration.

Mr Miller said the development is a “scandal hovering in the background” but he hopes that “good sense will prevail”.

Vicky Notman, barmaid at the Borough Hotel was said she would not get behind the council while they continue to move forward with the plans.

“These changes are not good enough,” she said.

“We need the Seaway car park to stay as a car park. It gets packed full at peak times with queues going right down to the underpass, where are they all going to go when it is no longer a car park?”

The £50million Seaway development was a major project ushered in by the previous administration, bringing a new cinema, 20-lane bowling alley, 80-room hotel and restaurants.

The developer has promised it will create hundreds of jobs and generate income for the town.

Tories to introduce 34 new officers to Southend streets

Tories would introduce 34 new special constables to the streets of Southend under a new ten-point plan to take the town forward.

The party, which does not have a majority on the authority, announced its new blueprint to tackle crime, parking and pollution.

The plan for the future was revealed before independent councillors triggered a crunch meeting which could oust new Tory council leader, Tony Cox, Under the Tory proposals, the council would pay for the expenses for 34 special constables - two in each ward - with Essex Police funding the training.

Special constables are volunteers and are unlikely to work full-time.

Dan Nelson, Tory councillor responsible for community safety, said action was needed because “innocent blood was being spilt”.

He added: “These officers have the exactly the same powers as police constables and we want them to become the neighbourhood policing team, which we sadly have less of these days.

“We want to bolster those numbers and get more bobbies on the street.

“This will mean two dedicated to every ward across the town.

“This is not just for the town centre, it is everywhere from Shoebury to West Leigh.

“It is by no means a silver bullet but it is the option that we can get right now and I am interested in dealing with the problem now.”

Highlighting current crime concerns, he said: “Lads who are my age dying on our streets and we need to do something.

“The council needs to put its money where its mouth is and deal with this.

“Longer term we can look at other options and more recruitment.”

He said the officers are estimated to cost the council £34,000 each year and he wants them introduced “as fast as possible”.

The neighbourhood policing team will be separate from the community safety team, introduced by the council last year.

Mr Nelson said that team is there to support the police in tackling antisocial behaviour and he hopes the introduction of a public spaces protection order later in the year will help to enhance that.

This would effectively ban begging or people sleeping in the town centre.

Independent councillor Martin Terry, who has been campaigning for improved policing in Southend, said: “It is welcome but it is not enough.

“We don’t want policing on the cheap, we want full time officers who can be there for residents constantly, so this is welcome move but nonetheless it is policing on the cheap.

“Will it produce what we need in Southend? No.”

Following the release of the ten-point plan, leader Tony Cox said: “When I became leader of the council I made a simple promise - the administration I lead will be a listening one.

“I recognise that in the past we haven’t always got everything right.

“This ten-point plan rights some of those wrongs.

“People have told us they want these things in place and I firmly believe we can deliver them.”

“These policies are good for the town, they put more bobbies on our streets, they make parking more accessible and affordable.”