SOUTHEND grew and prospered as a Victorian and Edwardian seaside town, frequented by the well-heeled and working people alike.
Its history goes beyond the introduction of the railway, but it was this that really launched the town as a tourist magnet.
The pier, Royal Terrace and other grand residential areas, and a good number of public parks were created.
There is a rich heritage that originates from those days. Tourism brought money and jobs to the town.
In the last half century, this inheritance has been slowly but surely chipped away and parts of the town are a shabby reminder of former glories.
That Southend still has visitors is in part due to to its proximity to London and other large towns, in part due to its natural assets, and in part due to some of its history and former beauty still evident in isolated pockets.
Southend looks unloved, and is not helped by some bizarre and ugly development.
Change is to be expected, and progress is a good thing. However, Essex’s largest conurbation is victim to developments that ignore its history.
This is making the place not just a less attractive home, but also less enticing to visitors.
In the days when staycations are becoming more popular, Southend should be in a position to prosper.
The neglect, and on occasions wanton destruction, has been overseen by a Tory administration that has managed to protect some parts of the town, while allowing shabby and overcrowded streets to be created in others.
We have a pier that has had little done to it since devastating fires destroyed parts of it. Plans that do emerge from time to time are fantastical and out of character.
The cliffs slippage in Westcliff has been an eyesore for some years. Council tree felling created it; the councils’ inertia has kept it since. Plans for a museum here will mean the removal of more greenery from a town already suffering an abundance of concrete.
The Beecroft Art Gallery has been allowed to rot, the Palace Theatre has had a chequered history, and the supporter-built Roots Hall Stadium is likely to fall prey to developers.
For a town that has an intimate relationship with water, it is a bad and dangerous idea to move its public swimming pool to an inaccessible for many part of the town.
For all the preceding, Southend is a good town, but it could be better.
The remaining heritage should be cherished, and development sympathetic to the town’s character.
All is not lost, for despite the best efforts of the local Tories Southend has its attractions.
My fear, though, is that the remaining good bits will slowly and surely disappear unless there is a change at the Civic Centre – there is only one way to top Tory vandalism and that is to vote them out.
Nelson Road, Leigh-on-Sea