The latest tragic example of this is the commencement of 15 months of work converting the main roundabout into town (Victoria Circus) into yet more concrete and a traffic light system (at a cost of a mere £25 million!!!!). The current roundabout is nothing special, but it's been there for almost 50 years and does the job - allowing traffic to flow reasonably well in and out of town. But what IS special (erm, make that 'WAS' special) were the 100 year old trees that this huge traffic island was originally constructed around back in the early 1960's.
As luck would have it, I took this photo of the roundabout on Thursday 7th January. Obviously I took the picture just to capture the snowfall, I had no idea of what was about to happen...
Coming in to work on Monday 11th January I was shocked to see the decimated roundabout. All but one of the trees had been cut down, and all the plant beds dug up... the aftermath looked like a World War I battlefield. The council had made no notification that this work was to commence (no doubt intentionally), and a local group of protesters even had a meeting booked with the council on Tuesday 12th to discuss if there was any way the trees could be incorporated into the new development. The council agreed to meet the protesters... then cut the lot down on Sunday 10th.
Here's the same view less than a week after my first photo...
I am however delighted to see the townsfolk rising up to display their disgust at this needless expenditure and destruction of such distinguished trees, as ever since, the railings at the side of the roundabout have turned into an 'RIP' shrine.... It's much like you see on the roads these days at the scene of a tragic accident, however a closer inspection of the cards, flowers and wreaths shows that the deceased they are paying their respects to are none other than the 22 culled trees! Also great to see that the art of sarcasm is alive and well in Southend... In amongst the tributes are 3 lovely bogus ads:
BIRD TABLES FOR SALE - ALL TREES SOURCED LOCALLY
FREE LOGS - PLEASE CALL XXXXXXXXX ASK FOR LESTER
and my personal favourite:
BEDDING PLANTS FOR SALE - SOME SLIGHT SAWDUST DAMAGE - VARIOUS COLOURS
I do hope that the phone numbers attached to these ads weren't all direct lines to the decision makers over at the Council...
I brought my camera in just too late... hours before I took these photos there were dozens of floral tributes, cards and messages on and around the railings. The council had removed the whole lot by the time I went out to lunch, and all that remained were these few messages. 30 minutes later as I returned from lunch, all of these had been removed too!!!! If only the council were this diligent and efficient during our month of scandalously icy roads and pavements... maybe my 78 year old dad wouldn't have fallen over in the treacherous conditions, and perhaps his Christmas wouldn't have been ruined.
The council of course will take no notice of the locals and their show of disgust... we only live here for goodness sake, why would we be interested in what happens to our town? But I'm pleased that people feel strongly enough to make their point.
And what IS the point of digging up the roundabout anyway?? John Lamb (our Tory councillor responsible for tourism and regeneration) said "the works will help boost trade and tourism in the town"... I can hear the tills ringing with anticipation already John, nothing like a new set of traffic lights to get peoples wallets out... Anna Waite (Southend Councils executive councillor for transport and planning) said "we are extremal proud of this scheme, which will transform the entrance to Southend Town Centre"... bloody hell Anna, I thought we were in a recession love?! You couldn't quite manage to scrape up a few quid to get some grit out on the roads (which in turn meant I risked my life every morning travelling to work and you didn't collect my rubbish for nearly THREE weeks), but you can find £25 million to "transform the entrance to Southend Town Centre"??! Great... at least people will now have to wait until they get through the "entrance" before they realise the town is a shit-hole these days.... The blame for which I also lay at the feet of this council after years of neglect. The once thriving 'office' area of Southend is now 90% vacant derelict buildings, the shopping centre is full of empty shops, and the whole place is grubby and depressing.
Yet the one asset that Southend has that might (just might) bring in a few tourists, we've been waiting THIRTY FOUR years for you to mend!!! Yes, the pier-head of the longest pier in the world (1.3 miles) was all but destroyed by fire in 1976, with further fires in 1995 and 2005... and we are STILL waiting for Southend council to repair it!
I don't know anyone who thinks that this £25 million pound development is wanted or needed.... and to my mind, the introduction of a weedy set of traffic lights at such an incredibly busy junction seems woefully naive.
Oh, and just one final thing.... either side of the roundabout the council have hastily erected two lovely hoardings showing an 'artists impression' of what this fabulous improvement will look like. I had to do a double take, as surely I'd made a mistake, but no, quite clearly there it was in the exact position where the roundabout currently sits.... guess what?? yup that's right, a dozen or so trees... Wankers.