A recent article in the Echo (20th September) made mention of a new Southend bypass being “seriously considered” by Southend Council.
Cllr James Courtenay, deputy leader of Southend Council said in the article;
“To get from Shoebury to Progress Road sometimes times takes as long to get from Progress Road to the M25. We have future housing and businesses like the airport business park but it doesn’t just affect Southend. A new road would need to come off somewhere near to the A130 and go through Castle Point and Rochford and go north of Southend.”
He then went on to acknowledge;
“There would be lots of issues with the relief road like whether it would go through green-belt and how far north it would go. This is why we are looking at 2050.”
With the seemingly unanimous support of most Southend residents, Mr Courtenay seems to have hit the nail on the head with a wonderful and potentially election-winning idea…
Or has he?
This is not a new idea.
The suggestion of having a Southend Bypass was first considered in the late seventies, with the suggestion resurfacing seriously in 1997 by Teddy Taylor MP, when it was immediately rebuffed by residents, campaign groups, and Rochford District Council who were concerned about the prospect of the associated new housing only adding to the problem.
It is a well-documented fact that when these bypass roads are constructed, that huge swathes of housing estates are built to complement, and usually part-finance, the new roads.
This is already beeing seen in Leicester, Melton Mowbray, and most infamously, Newbury.
With this large increase in housing, the new road built to alleviate traffic ends up becoming congested with the traffic of the new homes and businesses it inadvertently created, not solving anything and only adding to the issue.
In a situation where Southend is 65% developed on, (49% over the national average) is building a road encouraging new homes and ultimately, more traffic, really a sustainable solution?
- Bypasses often don’t remove traffic from the old route, as was the case at the A6 Alverston Bypass and A1(M) Wetherby road. The less-used ‘old route’ usually becomes a favoured alternative to the new road, conversely adding to the traffic along the existing route.
- Bypasses just move the issue of congestion along a few miles, as was the case at the A6 Great Glen Bypass and the A650 Bingley Relief Road, where neighbouring towns suddenly developed major traffic issues.
Ultimately, the issue is capacity.
- You start with a road network struggling to cope with the number of vehicles using it.
- The conventional opinion is to then build more roads to deal with the increased number of vehicles.
- With less traffic, people are more likely to drive, and with new housing the number of vehicles on the road increases.
This process is called ‘induced traffic.’
- You then have more congested roads than you started with, also compounding other issues like carbon emissions and Air Quality.
The Environmental Argument.
Beyond the simple measure of traffic, there are also many environmental reasons as to why building a bypass around Southend would not be a good idea.
Southend struggles with one of the worst Air Quality issues in the country, already exceeding the safe limits recommended by the World Health Organisation. An increased number of cars on our roads would only make that crisis worse.
All this within months of the local Tories announcing an ‘Air Quality Plan.’
The proposed route connecting the A130 to Shoebury traverses two rivers, would pass near or through five small villages, and crosses nearly 17 kilometres of previously uninterrupted Green Belt and Farmland. Such a massive undertaking comes with significant and potentially costly Environmental impacts and could threaten the biodiversity of the area.
Southend has 33% less natural space than the UK average, and even Rochford has 27% less than average.
Our area is already developed on significantly more than other places in the UK, and we should be fighting to protect what little farmland and green space we have left, not building roads through it.
The neighbouring villages would be changed forever, transitioning from idyllic rural outposts to enclaves overshadowed by a noisy and polluting main road.
This is all of course without beginning to consider the wider atmospheric impact of encouraging additional petrol-cars driving around, and what impact that will have at a time when we’re already failing to hit our climate change commitments.
This is predominantly political posturing.
Cllr Courtenay has a fair amount of weight on his shoulders as the Conservative Council’s Deputy Leader.
Is it surprising then that he makes grand declarations of intent on such a regular basis?
His inference that the revival of a two-decade-old idea of the Southend Bypass would provide the golden-goose solution to a town-wide issue when Conservative support in the town is slipping; is somewhat convenient.
His commentary in the Echo is also deliberately vague.
With more caveats than a tenancy agreement in London, Courtenay manages to reintroduce the idea of the Bypass as merely something the Council are “looking into” whilst providing no details and the vaguest of timeframes, promising that any proposals would form part of the Council’s ‘2050 Vision’.
He says; “We need to work out what we need to do and these things take a long time.”
Thanks for the clarification.
We need a new and radical alternative.
The traffic issue plaguing Southend is something that needs urgently addressing. That is not disputed.
The current situation has led to residents being regularly exposed to dangerous levels of toxic pollutants and suffering from crippling traffic jams which create traffic chaos around town.
The solution to the transport infrastructure in Southend lies in a diversification of transit methods and implementing sustainable transport, not building new roads that will just encourage new homes being built in an already overcrowded area.
No large town in the world has ever solved its congestion problems by building more roads.
Using London as an example; the city has dealt with its transit issues by creating an integrated and sustainable model, encouraging public transport and physically-active travel, whilst discouraging car use.
A similar situation can be created in Southend on a much-reduced scale.
- A refreshed and developed Public Transport system can be introduced including a new Park and Ride scheme that actually works.
- Encouraging physically-active transport by supporting initiatives, creating more safe cycle lanes connecting the town, and undertaking a public education campaign would reduce the amount of cross-town traffic.
A new approach to town-wide transit needs to be considered urgently.
The previous schemes of widening our roads have not worked, what is to say that this highly-expensive suggestion would?
By Cllr Courtenay’s own admission, “we might have automated vehicles by then.”
Who is to say that these future vehicles aren’t all electric self-driving buses as we’re already seeing suggested in cities around the world?
Let’s try and avoid a future of buses travelling on near-empty dual carriageways where once pristine fields stood.
The Green Party has such a radical plan to develop Southend’s infrastructure and create better transport.
You can read our proposals in our Manifesto.
“The South East Essex Green Party have long opposed the prospect of a Rochford Outer Bypass scheme, and we refute and challenge the comments made by Councillor Courtenay in the Echo article of 20th September 2018.
A bypass to the north of the town would not solve any of the town’s crippling traffic issues and would lead to lead to an inexcusable loss of Green Belt land, the destruction of many neighbouring villages, and an increase in Air Pollution.
In light of the substantial amount of evidence proving that this scheme would only detriment our town, we call on Councillor Courtenay and his colleagues to reject their national party’s policy, and re-evaluate their stance in the interests of local people.”