Parklife

Save Priory Park

The End Of The Road : It’s Official!

Posted by keith on April 30th, 2009

Camp Bling announces ‘the end’ as road scheme stopped.

LISTEN TO THE BBC ESSEX RADIO ITEM ON THIS STORY

Long running road protest and counter-cultural campaign site Camp Bling, based in the middle of Southend-on-Sea, Essex, is set to be decommissioned by the summer, after the long awaited announcement that the controversial Priory Crescent road widening has now officially been cancelled. (1)

Members of the camp met with Council leaders last night with a view to resolving the situation, after the publication of an open letter from Transport Councillor Anna Waite, stating that £5m in central government funding would be spent solely on the Cuckoo Corner roundabout, with possible junction improvements – but no widening – to follow at the Prittle Brook industrial site at a later date. (2)

As a result, campaigners intend to honour their public pledge to clear and vacate the camp, now that their objective to stop the road has been met completely. It is expected that it will take a number of weeks to fully return the East Saxon king’s burial to its former condition, with all structures and materials on the site to be removed by the group, with the objective of incurring no cost to the local taxpayer.

Speaking from the camp Ginger said, ‘We would like to thank each and every one of the people who have been involved, not just with Camp Bling, but also with the ongoing campaign which ran from 2001 in opposition to the scheme. It’s not every day that you get to be part of an effort to stop a £25m road widening, with the added opportunity to warn people of the culmination of environmental and social crises that we now all face.’

‘For many of us this has been our first taste of an alternative, lower impact, and more compassionate lifestyle. We have shared our experiences – both good and bad – along the way, and often got people to acknowledge the real choices that we all have. It is time for everyone to confront reality, as western industrial society continues to overshoot the ecological limits of the Earth.’ (3)

People are still welcome to visit the camp whilst decommissioning is underway, and are also encouraged to check out some of the alternatives at: www.campbling.org

NOTES TO EDITORS:

(1) Camp Bling was first set up by local activists on 23rd September 2005. For more info about both the camp, and the long running campaign, go to: www.campbling.org

(2) See full contents of letter at:

http://www.southend.gov.uk/news/default.asp?id=2835

(3) Climate, Peak Oil, Overpopulation, Mass Extinction, Overconsumption, etc.

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Road Widening Stopped?

Posted by keith on April 20th, 2009

In an open letter to Parklife, published today on the Southend Borough Council web site, Councillor Anna Waite states cetegorically that SBC has no plans for taking any part of Priory Park, nor carrying out any remodelling work on Priory Crescent beyond the junctions at Cuckoo Corner and the entrance to the proposed industrial park.

The letter reads as follows:

Dear Mr Qureshi,

It was brought to my attention last week that Parklife recently issued a press release which states-

Mr Qureshi issued a direct challenge to the councillor responsible for transport and planning, stating, ‘Cllr Anna Waite can resolve the situation here and now by publicly announcing that the road widening is no more. Road building should have no place as part of a sane and connected planning response to the unfolding climate catastrophe that we are beginning to witness.’

I am therefore responding to this statement.

In respect of your first request for an announcement re the widening of Priory Crescent, I can, and have previously said, that the proposal to widen Priory Crescent – which has never included taking land from Priory Park – is not going ahead. To be absolutely clear on this, the earlier scheme has been split into two – Prittlebrook Entrance and Cuckoo Corner. We are proceeding with Cuckoo Corner.

When, and if, the Prittlebrook Business Park goes ahead, it may be preferable to consolidate its current three entrances into a modified single junction.

Whilst we now have funding in place to improve traffic flows at Cuckoo Corner, as yet there are no firm proposals. However, I am hopeful that a roundabout can be retained and therefore there may be an extra west travelling slip lane at the roundabout, and/or a widened approach adjacent to the roundabout. This will not encroach into the park.

I have pledged to turn the burial site into a commemorative garden for the Saxon King and can assure you that the outstanding archaeological works will happen as soon as possible once the site is vacated, so as to enable the landscaping to occur.

In respect of the second request re Road Building, I clearly cannot promise that no new roads will ever be built in Southend. For example, if the Prittlebrook Business Park were to come forward, there would be a need for roads within the site. That said, road building is only one element of our strategy to improve access and congestion. We have successfully bid for SERT funding and are currently consulting on this. Likewise we have been awarded Cycling Town Status and considerable funding to roll out cycling facilities. In the forthcoming year I am looking to improve yet more footpaths and safety initiatives to aid walking. We are hoping to improve train and bus use through a number of schemes. We are also in the very early stages of looking at alternatively-fuelled vehicles, and incentives for employees to use alternatives to their cars. We are also looking carefully at planning applications and briefs to ensure that they are as sustainable as possible and our new Design and Townscape Guide has raised the build levels.

Given this considerable and genuine commitment to solving our congestion by a holistic and as sustainable an approach as possible, even if a new road was deemed essential, it would accommodate public transport, cycling, walking and where appropriate, SERT.
I trust this gives you the assurances you seek and that you will now vacate the site of the Saxon King Burial Chamber. Should you have any queries I suggest that you contact me to arrange a meeting and I will be happy to meet with you.

Yours Sincerely

Cllr A Waite, Executive Cllr for Planning and Transport, Southend-on-Sea Borough Council

Details of Parklife’s formal response to this letter will be published here, at www.savepriorypark.org, as soon as possible.

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Southend Council continues to withhold Priory Crescent plans from Parklife.

Posted by keith on March 25th, 2009

Press release:

Parklife ‘Save Priory Park!’ campaign

Friday 13th March 2009

Contact Parklife directly on 07739 189165

Or e-mail priory_parklife@yahoo.co.uk

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE.
—————————————————————————————
Southend Council continues to withhold Priory Crescent plans from Parklife.

Campaigners allege cover up and call for scheme to be scrapped amid escalating climate catastrophe.

Controversial latest plans for changes to Cuckoo Corner and the widening of Priory Crescent have been withheld from local campaign group Parklife, under a recent – and much delayed – Freedom of Information response from Southend Borough Council (SBC).

The Parklife group – formed in June 2001 to prevent the road widening – requested the latest details and drawings in January, after establishing that funding could be made available as soon as April 2009 in order for work to commence on the first stretch of road. (1)

Campaigner Shaun Qureshi said, ‘This is a cover up with crucial information first being delayed and then subsequently withheld. Council officers would not return e-mails or telephone calls regarding the information request, nor meet face to face to explain the latest situation. Meanwhile the scheme moves inexorably forward behind the scenes.’ (2)

It is believed that the public is being intentionally kept in the dark until £5m in regional funding is secured from the East of England Regional Assembly. Meanwhile, Parklife are now held up in the complaints process, and believe that they are unlikely to obtain any relevant or timely information based upon this scenario. (3)

Mr Qureshi issued a direct challenge to the councillor responsible for transport and planning, stating, ‘Cllr Anna Waite can resolve the situation here and now by publicly announcing that the road widening is no more. Road building should have no place as part of a sane and connected planning response to the unfolding climate catastrophe that we are beginning to witness.’

The world’s leading climate scientists, meeting for an emergency climate summit in Copenhagen this week, have called for politicians to act now to avoid catastrophe. (4)

—————————————————————————————
ENDS.

NOTES TO EDITORS:

(1) Initial request was made under Freedom of Information and Environmental Information Regulations on Thursday 22nd January.
Response was made by SBC on Wednesday 4th March stating with regard to statutory undertakers drawings that, ‘The information is provided solely to the Council and cannot be reproduced and made public.’ Little else was provided, apart from some costings and a copy of a report to the East of England Regional Transport Forum, made on Tuesday 10th February:
http://www.eera.gov.uk/GetAsset.aspx?id=fAAyADQAOAAyAHwAfABGAGEAbABzAGUAfAB8ADAAfAA1

(2) SBC would not formally acknowledge receipt of the original information request via e-mail, would not return telephone calls made to the team leader of the highways department, and an Engineer from the team would not meet face to face when requested at the Civic Centre on the day (18th March) before the original deadline.

(3) Complaints have been lodged by Parklife both with the Southend Borough Council Complaints Officer, and the Information Commissioner.

(4) For more news on the Copenhagen emergency climate summit see:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/motoring/environment/4982149/Worlds-leading-scientists-in-desperate-plea-to-politicians-to-act-on-climate-change.html

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Parklife Slams Council’s Priory Crescent ‘Freedom of Information’ Process

Posted by keith on March 5th, 2009

Press release:

Parklife ‘Save Priory Park!’ campaign

Wednesday 4th March 2009

Contact Parklife directly on 07739 189165

Or e-mail priory_parklife@yahoo.co.uk

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE.
———————————————————————————————————————————-
Parklife slams Council’s Priory Crescent ‘Freedom of Information’ process.

Council withholds Priory Crescent plans whilst awaiting funding go-ahead, as ‘environmental catastrophe’ accelerates.

Local residents campaign group Parklife has today lodged a formal complaint with the Information Commissioners Office, regarding the withholding of latest controversial plans for Cuckoo Corner and Priory Crescent, in Southend-on-Sea, Essex.
Campaigners submitted Freedom of Information requests to the Department for Transport (DfT), regional Government offices, and Southend Borough Council (SBC) in January. To date the Council has yet to respond – despite being obligated to do so by the twenty working day deadline of Thursday 19th February. (1)

Parklife campaigner Shaun Qureshi said, ‘Council officers have not provided any information, and will not return e-mails or telephone calls, despite repeated attempts on our part to find out exactly what is going on. We have not been informed of the latest scheme details, and will therefore assume the worst until given reason to do otherwise.’

Funding for the revised plans has yet to be confirmed, but in a recent development, SBC are now bidding for £5m from the East of England Regional Assembly. This is likely to prove far more successful than previous bids for central Government cash from the DfT, as no further modelling or assessment will be required, other than that necessary to satisfy the Council. (2)

Qureshi added, ‘It is likely that SBC will be in a position to begin work on Priory Crescent very soon, with the only limitation being the amount of money to be made available from both regional and local funds. One would hope that major public opposition, combined with the latest data detailing accelerating environmental catastrophe would be enough to justify cancelling the road widening – this might be the last chance for the people behind it to listen.’ (3)

Campaigners and members of Camp Bling still pledge to end the campaign and vacate the protest site if the road widening element of the plans is dropped.

———————————————————————————————————————————-
ENDS.

NOTES TO EDITORS:

(1) Requests were made under Freedom of Information and Environmental Information Regulations on Thursday 22nd January to:

Department for Transport (Major Projects)
Government Office for the East of England
East of England Regional Assembly Regional Transport Forum
Southend Borough Council

All were required to respond within twenty working days of the date of request.

(2) Section 1.5 of a report by Southend Borough Council to the East of England Regional Transport Forum on Tuesday 10th February 2009 states:

‘The DfT have confirmed that a revised Major Scheme Business Case will not be required for the scheme or any further modelling or appraisal assessment carried out other than that required to ensure that the Borough Council can satisfy itself that the scheme continues to represent value for money.’

For full text see:

http://www.eera.gov.uk/GetAsset.aspx?id=fAAyADQAOAAyAHwAfABGAGEAbABzAGUAfAB8ADAAfAA1

(3) For latest news detailing environmental catastrophe see: www.savepriorypark.org and/or www.campbling.org

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Choose A New Beginning!

Posted by keith on February 2nd, 2009

When in trouble there is a tendency to do more of the very thing that causes the problem.

Experts are currently documenting a mass species extinction, climate catastrophe, the end of the cheap energy age with peak oil extraction about to hit, and the many other ills which affect both our society and the planet we live on.

Despite this we plough on regardless. Western industrial civilisation continues to overshoot the ecological limits of the earth, as it has done for decades, and as we have known all along.

In light of this it seems almost unfair to blame Cllr Anna Waite and all of her many predecessors for the Priory Crescent road widening fiasco. They have simply done what was expected of them.

These people work within the old belief system that we can have unlimited growth on a planet with finite limits. I see much irony in the fact that this road scheme dates back to the early 70’s when we first knew full well that it was time for radical change.

Instead of powering down and scaling back, experts such as Cllr Waite built ever higher, despite the warning signs all around. Those of us who opposed the madness were ridiculed or criminalised, whilst those who perpetuated it were celebrated.

For years we have made the case for change, only to be ignored. Now it would seem that we will have no choice. Many opportunities have been squandered, whilst as late in the day as 2009 we still have to fight a dual carriageway scheme that most of the people of this town do not want.

Cllr Waite’s message has been inconsistent at best and misleading at worst in making the case for her flagship project. Maybe she too knows deep down that it makes no sense.

It’s been a hard lesson for those of us prepared to face the reality. Others will have to follow suit, and many will have to justify their inaction to coming generations.

This really should be a case of the end of the road and a new beginning – not more of the same.
Which do you choose?

Shaun Qureshi
Campaigner – Parklife
www.savepriorypark.org

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Camp Bling prepares for Priory Crescent go ahead

Posted by keith on January 14th, 2009

Press release:

Camp Bling ‘Save Priory Park!’ road campaign

Tuesday 13th January 2009

Contact Camp Bling directly on 07866 967601

Or e-mail camp.bling@yahoo.co.uk

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE.

—————————————————————————————–

Camp Bling prepares for Priory Crescent go ahead.

‘Prepare yourselves for large scale direct action in defence of the Earth.’ That is the message from activists at Camp Bling, road campaigners, and local residents, as approval for recommending funding of the controversial Priory Crescent road widening in Southend-on-Sea is expected to be given at a meeting of the East of England Regional Transport Forum this Friday. (1)

Contrary to widespread belief and recent comments from Southend council leader Nigel Holdcroft, the project has not been scrapped, and the local Conservative group headed by him are pressing ahead in the face of virtually total opposition from across the board, including within the council chamber from the other political parties who have vowed to scrap it. (2)

It is understood that £7.5m of central government funding is scheduled to be made available in two blocks from as early as April 2009, with the only outstanding requirement then being for concurrence from the Department for Transport which would respond to the finalised regional guidance to be provided by late February, and a council vote to formally approve the business case request for funds.

Speaking from Camp Bling, Ginger said, ‘we feel we have done pretty much all we can to both stop the road and provide an alternative view on the state of the planet. No doubt about it, if the go ahead is given then there will be anarchy on Priory Crescent which will be completely beyond our control. People are likely to arrive from far and wide to stop the destruction.’

The recent ‘emergency relaunch’ in September 2008 to address environmental catastrophe as it unfolds and accelerates, and new website: www.campbling.org have been well received, drawing ongoing attention from around the world with the message that fundamental and radical lifestyle change is needed more than ever. (3)

Ginger added, ‘future generations will look back at the people like those behind the Priory road scheme, and wonder what stopped them from making the simple connection to the radical changes that we now urgently need to make. This could still be the end of the road and a new beginning if the right choice is made, but we are running out of time.’

——————————————————————————————
ENDS.

NOTES TO EDITORS:

1) Details for the East of England Regional Transport Forum, regional funding proposals, and forthcoming meetings (16th Jan/10th Feb) can be found at:

http://www.eera.gov.uk/meeting-and-events/regional-forums/regional-transport-forum/

2) The latest proposals were first put forward in 1998, and are now solely supported by the Conservative group, though the scheme has a history originally dating back to the early 1970’s.

3) A significant number of people have signed up for direct action via the Camp Bling ‘beat the bulldozer pledge':

www.campbling.org/bulldozerpledge.htm

(Reprinted courtesy of www.campbling.org)

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Peak Oil, Climate And Public Against Priory Crescent

Posted by keith on May 29th, 2008

Peak Oil, climate and public against Priory Crescent.
  
Parklife has raised the urgent issues of both Peak Oil and the escalating climate crisis with Department for Transport officials, over plans to go ahead with the controversial Priory Crescent road widening scheme – after significant and related losses for the Conservative group on 1st May.
  
Campaigners believe that costs for the revised £11.5m plan are set to rocket, due to the soaring price of oil which is likely to increase further as demand increases and proven oil reserves begin to decline. Meanwhile climate experts such as James Hansen at NASA’s Goddard Space Institute are calling for CO2 emissions to be scaled back drastically in order to save the planet. (1)
  
Parklife Campaigner Helene Robinson said, ‘Southend Borough Council are unable to contain costs for the controversial Priory road scheme. The original figure agreed with Government was £3.5m, but we now know that over £2m has already been spent with work not yet even begun. Costs are already escalating for the revised plan, and considering that the price of oil has doubled within a year, it looks extremely likely that the estimated £11.5m latest figure is set to rocket.’ (2)
  
In response to the recent call in local press from Southend Borough Council leader Nigel Holdcroft for a funding decision from the Department for Transport, Robinson added, ‘Despite repeated appeals and attempted justifications from the Conservative group, the local public again voted against the Priory road scheme at the elections on 1st May. Three key areas supposedly set to benefit from it voted the Tories out, and the party came within just 118 votes of losing overall control – this is set against the national trend on the day of major gains for the Conservatives.’ (3)
  
Robinson concluded, ‘Considering public opposition, and the growing threats from both Peak Oil and the urgent climate crisis that we now all face, it is clear that we have reached the end of this road, and that it is time to begin to look elsewhere for sustainable alternatives for the benefit of both our town and the planet as a whole.’


  NOTES:1) Oil price on New York Mercantile Exchange over past 12 months: http://www.oilnergy.com/1combo.htm (see green line in first two graphs)
  
For latest news on the climate crisis see: <
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/apr/07/climatechange.carbonemissions> <http://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/0804/0804.1135.pdf> (original paper).
  
2) For Priory Crescent expenditure to date see: <
http://www.southend.gov.uk/content.asp?section=511&content=6622> (table 2.3 – LTP Capital expenditure breakdown).
  
For forthcoming expenditure see DfT guidance at:
http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/regional/ltp/major/majorschemeguide/majorguidemain?page=1#a1006 <http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/regional/ltp/major/majorschemeguide/majorguidemain?page=1> (bullet point four).
  
3) The wards were: Prittlewell, Southchurch and Thorpe – gained by Lib Dem (Prittlewell) and Independents respectively. Conservatives started the day with a seven-seat majority and held on to control by 118 votes with a six-vote margin to gain Kursaal, and 112 votes to hold St Laurence.

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Priory Crescent Costs Being Withheld – Campaigners Say

Posted by keith on May 27th, 2008

Priory Crescent costs being withheld – campaigners say.
   
Local residents campaign group Parklife still await a response from Southend Borough Council (SBC) in relation to recently asked questions regarding provision of funding for the controversial Priory Crescent road widening scheme (1).
   
The group claim that up to £3.5m of local taxpayers money will be required towards the project. This figure includes the possible 25%/£2m towards construction of the road, but not the additional £1.875m that it is now known has been spent to date by SBC on planning and development alone (2).
   
Campaigner Shaun Qureshi said, ‘It was recently reported in local press that Tory Council leader Nigel Holdcroft would not comment on the cost of the road, saying that nothing has yet been decided. Considering that SBC made their case to regional Government late last year, the cost breakdown should be fully understood, especially in light of the potential impact on local taxpayers.’ (3)
   
Qureshi continued, ‘It would now appear that we have a situation where the leader of the Council will not inform the public of the outstanding costs, whilst Executive Councillor for Transportation Anna Waite is unaware of the huge sum that has already been wasted on her flagship project. People deserve much better than this, and from our understanding many are incensed and want the road widening scrapped once and for all.’
   
Three Freedom of Information requests regarding costs have been submitted to SBC by both Parklife and the Priory Park Preservation Society (PPPS) to date, and as of yet both campaign groups still await a response from the local authority (4).
   


NOTES:(1) Freedom of Information request submitted to SBC on Wednesday 2nd April / Southend Evening Echo Wednesday 9th April.(2) PPPS press release see Southend Evening Echo Thursday 17th April or www.ppps.org.uk

(3) Presentation made by SBC to Regional Transport Forum of East of England Regional Assembly on 30th November 2007.

(4) Outstanding Freedom of Information requests made to SBC:
  Parklife (via Department for Transport) 18/10/07
  Priory Park Preservation Society 12/03/08
  Parklife 02/04/08

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Things Are Changing

Posted by keith on May 16th, 2008

Things will be changing soon — keep your eyes open for the launch.

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Cost of Road Soars For Local Council

Posted by keith on May 1st, 2008

Parklife demands Council leader answers ‘£3.5m Priory Crescent question,’ as local costs soar.

Local residents campaign group Parklife is today calling for Council leader Nigel Holdcroft to answer key questions relating to the provision of funding by the local authority for the controversial Priory Crescent road widening.

The group obtained copies of sensitive Southend Borough Council (SBC) documents via a Freedom of Information request made to the Department for Transport (DfT) last year, showing that an initial assessment has been undertaken by the Council to establish the cost of evicting Camp Bling.

Figures for the eviction were not provided by the Government office, and as of yet a supplementary request for this information made via the DfT has been ignored by the Council (1). It has been estimated by campaigners that £1.5m may be required for this purpose alone (2).

In addition to the unresolved matter of security, the revised £11.5m plan announced by both Holdcroft and Executive Councillor Anna Waite in June 2007, must now also be part funded by the local authority, with a contribution of up to 25% to be made towards construction costs, should Government funding be forthcoming (3).

Parklife campaigner Patsy Link said, ‘The true cost to local taxpayers for building this road is being withheld. We have established that the total bill could be as much as £3.5m, and demand that the Conservative leader explains exactly how such a sum of money will be procured from Council funds for this purpose.’ (4)

The group will submit a further Freedom of Information request to the authority today in order to obtain the figures involved.
NOTES:

(1) Original Freedom of Information request made to both the DfT (via GO-East) and SBC. Supplementary request made to DfT on 18/10/07 as the Government department provided copies of sensitive Council documents not supplied by SBC.

(2) See Dalkeith Country Park eviction for comparison (estimated cost of £100,000 per day). Campaigners estimate cost for evicting Camp Bling could reach £1.5m.
Time estimate:
http://www.lbp.police.uk/freedom-of-information/publications/annual_report/page_3_east/breaking_new.htm
http://www.lbp.police.uk/ccnewsletter/2006/february.pdf
Cost estimate:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/4617344.stm
http://www.dioceseofedinburgh.org.uk/Edge_February_2006.pdf

(3) DfT currently await revised business case from SBC before making a decision.
Scheme could be categorised as ‘new’ where a 10% contribution would be required from the local authority, or ‘transitional’ where a 25% contribution would be necessary for any cost increase over the originally agreed figure.
DfT Major Projects and Economics department advised Parklife by telephone on Friday 28th March, that the scheme could be categorised as transitional.
See ‘Guidance for Local Authorities’ section 1.6 Transitional Arrangements (bullet point 4):
http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/regional/ltp/major/majorschemeguide/majorguidemain

(4) Total estimated cost of £3.5m to local authority based upon £1.5m for eviction plus 25%/£2m contribution for cost increases to scheme since December 2000 (£25% of the £8m subsequent cost increase since then would equate to £2m).

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