AMBITIOUS £4m works to transform, upgrade and completely modernise a major gateway into Southend town centre are now taking shape, much to the delight of high street shoppers.

Builders have been working hard to help bring the next phase of the project to life, which will see the road “realigned” to restrict vehicles and encourage visitors to move freely about the town.

The project – otherwise known as the Southend Central Area Transport Scheme (S-CATS) – will also see new access restrictions in place on Southend High Street from London Road which are set to be controlled by CCTV and a rising bollard system.

Relocating taxi bays along London Road, improving street lighting and CCTV as well as introducing more modern paving are all elements involved in the works.

This is alongside new secure cycle parking, benches and planters, on top of new trees and greenery.

Overjoyed to see investment in the town, Westcliff resident Tim Petrohilos often visits the site with his youngster Herbie to watch the diggers and workmen in full action.

The 39-year-old, said: “We moved here in February, and coming from Dagenham you really can see there’s everything here.

“So the idea of making it look a bit nicer is definitely good, I think it would be a great boost and a great use of the investment.

“My two-and-a-half year old is always watching the building work and loves to sit here and look at the diggers, so even while the works are going on it’s great for us.

“I think projects like this are what the town needs and as someone who shops along here I think it is fantastic. All of it should help open the place up and encourage people to keep coming here.

“The changes will make it a nicer place for people to visit and attract more in, which is definitely needed after the Covid pandemic.”

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Viviane Hancock, from Westcliff, added: “This is definitely a good thing. As it is the high street looks a bit sad, what with a number of shops closed at the moment, but having bits like the flowers and planters installed brightens up the place and actually makes you feel better.

“Yesterday was the first time I’ve seen it, and it just caught my eye as I was walking along. It makes you feel welcome, rather than it looking like a concrete jungle, and goes to show how much potential there is.

“This should also have an impact on business and give a well-needed boost to the high street.”

Better signage and wayfinding measures are also set to be installed.

Landscaping improvements are also included in the overhaul, with the area also set to benefit from a sustainable urban drainage system.

Dana Lovell has however questioned some aspects of the revamp.

The 21-year-old from Southend, said: “The taxi rank is perfect where it is, where it’s near the restaurants, bars and those sorts of places.

“The money could be used to instead help different areas in Southend. For example theres a lot of empty buildings, it could be invested there and to help bring life to the street with things like entertainment. I think we need more for the youth.”

Matt Breen, 34, from Westcliff, added: “The last 18 months of the pandemic has definitely taken its toll and high streets have really suffered, so I hope this would make a difference and that it can be maintained.”

The project has been funded through the Local Growth Fund.