UK Underpass Plans Prompt Anger
After a consultation was launched last month revealing the removal of a dual carriageway underpass located in Southend-on-Sea, United Kingdom, borough council members have responded with outrage, claiming that they had been kept in the dark about the project’s changes.
The project is part of a 500 million-pound ($647 million) town center regeneration scheme.
Starting in December 2017, public consultations began to take place regarding the Better Queensway scheme—a project that plans to transform an area of central Southend into a more vibrant community complete with new housing and outdoor spaces. The following month, the Southend reportedly secured 15 million pounds in of housing infrastructure funding from the government for the project.
By March 2018, the council began searching for a partner to work with and help deliver the project. By January, the search ended as council agreed to bring in Swan Housing Association.
In April, the council signed contracts with Swan Housing and Porters Place Southend LLP to deliver the regeneration project. The 50/50 joint venture is slated to last for a term of 30 years and involves the construction of 1,650 new homes along the Queensway.
“This is really just the beginning and there is much more work to be done. We are now collectively focused on the next stages,” Andy Lewis, the council’s Deputy Chief Executive said at the time. “This includes working with stakeholders, including residents and businesses to prepare a masterplan for submission for planning approval and more will be announced in due course.”
Most recently, on Oct. 21, local residents were given a first look at the initial concepts of the Better Queensway project. This first stage of the consultation is slated to run until Nov. 18, allowing the LLP to gather feedback and develop a second consultation, slated to take place in early 2020.
Following the second consultation, the LLP intends to submit an official planning application.
“As part of Porters Place Southend-on-Sea LLP, we want to work with local people to transform Queensway from an isolated and aging estate into a thriving community right in the centre of Southend-on-Sea,” said John Synnuck, Chief Executive for Swan Housing.
“It was therefore great to see local people attend this preview and we look forward to the public exhibitions also taking place which will help us to draw up the proposals for the site ready for further consultation in the New Year and then the submission of a planning application.”
What’s Happening Now
However, not everyone was happy with the community changes, as councilors reported that the updated plans were drastically different than what had been previously discussed regarding the project.
According to Southend Standard, councilors were displeased with the decision to scrap the Queensway underpass, a decision that replaces the infrastructure with a large underground flood water tank instead. The current dual carriageway underpass allows for traffic to flow to the seafront without having to use the Porters roundabout.
The replacement decision helps prevent any seafront flooding caused by heavy downpours, as well as diverts all traffic to and from Victoria Gateway—a roadway that uses two light controlled pedestrian crossings and a merger onto the Porters Grange roundabout.
“We welcome the homes, but this doesn’t serve our demographic well,” said Kevin Buck, shadow councilor responsible for transport.
“Four lanes of traffic dissect the development. It is a major through-road through the centre of Queensway. This doesn’t help the motorist trying to get through Queensway at all and will only create congestion.”
While financial terms and tank size hasn’t been discussed, councilors add that the endeavor could result in huge costs to lay proper pipework and would likely cause traffic jams in the summer when residents come from London drive into Southend.