A WAR of words has erupted over a move to raise the four-lane Queensway underpass to street level as part of the vast £500m housing scheme.

The blueprint to demolish the Queensway estate and rebuild it with more than 1,600 homes was again debated at a council scrutiny committee.

But the discussion soon descended into chaos as councillors argued over who was most to blame for signing off part of the plan to raise the four-lane Queensway underpass – a move the Conservatives claim will cause gridlock in the centre of Southend.

Tory councillor Kevin Buck tried to shift blame for the underpass decision to the Labour, Independent and Liberal Democrat administration, despite his own party overseeing the council when it was signed off.

Mr Buck admitted the cabinet at the time “did not understand” what it had signed off but pointed out that one of the essential requirements of the project during its development was to keep the underpass.

He said: “What cabinet believed they were approving which all members across the chamber have agreed they didn’t understand was a significant departure from the document we were told this would achieve.

“There are serious misgivings about the process that has taken place here.”

Deputy leader, Ron Woodley, said it was a Tory cabinet which signed off the raising of the underpass and added Tory councillors should not “keep going back in history trying to change it”.

Labour council leader Ian Gilbert also slammed the Tories for trying to deflect the issue away from their own party.

He said: “Clearly I don’t know what was said by the previous cabinet in private but there is nothing on the public record as far as I can see that expresses unease about the highway configuration.

“The decision rests with cabinet and given that highways was a topic of discussion around Queensway for so long I find it inconceivable nobody in cabinet asked questions about how the highways layout was going to work. It defies comprehension.”

Conservatives voted for the plans to considered again during the next cabinet meeting on July 28 but Labour councillors called for them to instead be discussed at full council on July 16.