THE battle for Priory Crescent is finally over.

After ten years of protests, debates, a public inquiry and millions of pounds spent on its planning, the proposed widening of Priory Crescent has now been confined to the dustbin.

Campaigners at the site, fondly named Camp Bling, were resolute in their determination to stop the scheme. They have finally agreed to clean up and leave their protest camp within the next three months.

The decision follows talks with Southend Council, which confirmed the road widening project, first revealed in 1996, was being ditched because the Government has failed to come up with the necessary funding.

Instead, the council now intends to change the road layout at Cuckoo Corner, potentially by installing new traffic lights to ease congestion at the notorious bottleneck.

While Southend Council called the agreement an “amicable settlement”, not everyone is pleased the plan has been ditched.

Former Southend Tory councillor Roger Weaver remains an unrepentant supporter of the project.

He inherited the scheme from the Lib Dems and Labour in 2000, when the Tories took control of the council. The initial plan involved dualling the road from Cuckoo Corner, linking up with the existing dual-carriageway past the rail bridge leading up to Sutton Road roundabout.

Controversially, this plan would have involved taking some land from Priory Park.

During his time in office, he became a hate figure. He was heckled at council meetings and protesters used his picture to create masks as part of the many protests which took place.

However, Mr Weaver said: “I still believe that on economic grounds and the future prosperity of the town and particularly areas in the east, the widening of Priory Crescent is vitally important.

“I think the current administration is being naive, and it is a waste of public money to try and do something at Cuckoo Corner without attending to road infrastructure in the area.”

The road scheme has seen a series of revisions over the years in an effort to placate protesters. At one point, part of neighbouring Priory Park would have been used to create a dual-carriageway in Priory Crescent. That was later ruled out and the plan was scaled back. However, this was never acceptable to the protesters.

A planning inquiry held by a Government inspector backed the plan after a ten-day hearing. But it became clear costs had soared from £3.5million in 1996 to £27.5million in 2006.

This prompted Lib Dem transport spokesman in the House of Commons, Tom Brake, to call it the dearest road scheme in the world, and said gold paving would cost less.

It was clear there was no real approval from the Government.

Two years ago, Tory council leader Nigel Holdcroft and Anna Waite, councillor resp-onsible for transport, decided to drop the main scheme and go for a scaled-down version from Cuckoo Corner as far as the Prittlebrook industrial estate entrance.

However, even this was too expensive and the council was forced to retreat, instead placing its faith in the Cuckoo Corner scheme. Many of the details have yet to be revealed.

Mr Weaver accepted there was not quite as much enthusiasm at the council for the road widening as the years wore on.

He said: “Since Charles Latham and I left the administration there was not the same determination to achieve what we wanted.”

Former council leader Charles Latham, who was also firmly behind the plan, still believes road widening was the right scheme for the town’s future.

He said: “What really brought it to an end were the delays, which the Government caused over providing the funding.

“Had the money come from the Government when it first said it would be available, then I believe the road would have been built on time.”

Read the full special report in today's Echo