SOUTHEND High Street has become “old and tired” and drastic action is needed to save it, an outspoken critic has claimed on national TV.

The claims were made by planning expert, Professor Cathy Parker as BBC’s Panorama programme looked at the street as part of its ‘How to Save the High Street’ series.


Claims - Professor Cathy Parker on the Panorama special

Mrs Parker, co-chair of the Institute of Place Management, also said a more grand entrance to the high street should be put in place and encouraged more temporary use of empty shop units.

But Ron Woodley, deputy leader of Southend Council, backed his council’s plans to modernise main shopping street.

He said: “I agree, we need a better entrance to the High Street, having that narrow walkway in was a mistake.

“The High Street could be classified as old and tired and that’s why we are trying to modernise it.

“I think the pedestrianised area needs work too; the cobbles are old and tired.”

He added: “We are putting more streetlights in and around the town centre which will make it safer.

“We are desperate to improve the High Street.


Agreement - Ron Woodley

“We brought in the one-hour parking scheme and are bringing in a new parking strategy to increase footfall and draw in retailers.”

But traders say the biggest issue is empty shops.

Joan Tiney, 69, chairman of the seafront traders association and owner of the Borough Hotel, said: “It would be good to have a grand entrance into the High Street.

“But we are seeing more and more empty shops and they need to sort that out but I don’t know what they are going to do about it.

“I agree, temporary businesses or even indoor markets could be a good use for empty shops.”

As part of plans to rejuvenate High Street, the council has set aside £6.3million to invest while zero interest loans will be available to shops as well as a cash pot to update shop fronts.

Specialised facial recognition cameras will help identify shoplifters and cut crime.

New paving, green spaces, signs, seats and trees will also be installed in a bid to give the town a facelift.