Thursday, 24 November 2011

Shoebury Residents Association

As a councillor, two of my favourite meetings of the year are the open meetings of the Shoebury Residents Association where all members and non members of the Residents Association across the two wards of Shoeburyness (West Shoebury & Shoeburyness) are invited to attend.

As a councillor I like these meetings as they give me another opportunity to listen to what residents concerns are. These meeting are not scripted and I am not briefed beforehand on what issues will be raised.

Over the years, the Shoebury Residents Association have been very active and vociferous in major planning applications affecting Shoebury, re-launching the Shoebury Fair and campaigning on issues which are of concern to Shoebury residents.

The open meeting last night was no exception with a committment from the Residents Association to be very active in helping promote and support small businesses especially in West Road and the elderly population in Shoebury.

One thing from the meeting which particularly struck a chord with me was the Chairman's opening remarks especially in regards to the Burgess Estate Residents Association (BERA) recruiting leaflet which some residents when the misfortune to find on their door mats.

I have blogged at length the issues with BERA which for time and space considerations I will not repeat, but the Shoebury Residents Association Chairman gave me gentle reminder and others present how independent the Residents Association are from their elected politicians.

Back in 2006, when I was first elected as a councillor, I was forced to resign my membership of the Residents Association and in fairness to him even Shoeburyness ward Independent Party councillor Mike Assenheim resigned as Chairman and from the Association when he a candidate in the Shoeburyness by-election in 2007, albiet he did set up the Coalition of Borough Residents Association (COBRA) and remained in control until his election.

To see a Residents Association not run for political ambition and have the honest intentions of the residents it represents makes a refreshing change. 

Friday, 18 November 2011

Local Shopping Centres

On Wednesday, there was an interesting feature on the future for the West Road Shopping Area in the Southend Echo.

In the tough economic climate, the retail sector in general has been suffering as hard pressed families watch their spending to ensure that they make ends meets. There is also the fact that the increase in Internet shopping and supermarkets have had an impact generally on the High Street and in particular on independent shops.

As a resident myself in West Road, one of the qualities of living there is that I have a local shopping arcade within walking distance of my front door. I am also blessed that I have the Ness Road Shopping Area also within a stones throw and where practically possible I use these local shops. 

What the article didn't really address or explore are some of the local issues in addition to the general issues of why local shopkeepers in West Road are finding times difficult. There is no doubt in my mind that West Road and Ness Road's struggles started when the Post Office closed some time ago and are further compounded by the fact that the nearest cash point is in the Asda complex.

Yes, I do agree the council has a role to play in invigorating West Road Shopping Area and encouraging people to shop. Along with my fellow ward councillors we have worked hard to get any graffiti removed when it appears, had more litter bin installed, ensure that West Road Shopping Area is cleaned every morning and to keep free parking.

I have also committed to local residents and shopkeers that I would personally object to any new application for a takeaway as I believe there are more than enough and anymore could make also make them commercially unviable - in past couple of years three takeaways have already folded in Ness Road. I know this approach could lead to some empty shops in the short term but I take the view that this approach encourages a better mix of shops and services in the long term.

But the shopkeepers have a role to play to. One of the biggest criticisms that I have from local residents is that they can never park in West Road - even at times when shopkeepers say custom is quiet. I suspect that this may be down to the fact that parking spaces are utilised by staff who work in the shops.

Around four years ago concerns were expressed to me by the shopkeepers that their premesis were suffering from vandalism and general anti-social behaviour. To try and combat this I arranged with the borough's Neighbourhood Watch co-ordinator to set up a group with local shopkeepers here. I set up a meeting at a local community centre, spoke to all the shopkeepers about the idea and wrote to them all in advance yet not one shopkeer attended.

Yet on the other hand, the shopkeepers in Ness Road speak to each other and over the past two years have even chipped in together to get Christmas lights and decorations for the festive season.

I do not think all is doom and gloom in West Road as there has been a steady trickle of new businesses opening in the past couple of years with the Mayor opening a new venture just a couple of weeks ago.

It is undoubtable that the shopkeers in West Road and Ness Road have passion, determination and Shoebury at heart but ultimately I say to residents 'use em or lose em'.         

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Readers letter

On Monday a clearly rattled Cllr Woodley took to the Echo letters page to defend his precarious position and attack hard working West Shoebury councillors following my expose on his stewardship of Burges Estate Residents Association (BERA).

The Echo did allow me a right of reply in today's paper albeit a heavily edited version. So for my regular readers here is the letter that I sent to the Echo in full:


I find it incredible that Ron Woodley continues to use the Burges Estate Residents Association (BERA) as a decoy to mask his true motives (Echo Letters 07/11/11). The real reason for the expansion of BERA into other areas from their Thorpe Bay base can be found in BERA's last statement of accounts which shows a fall in their membership subscriptions by over a third.

With a falling membership, Mr Woodley tries to deceive residents of West Shoebury and Southchurch into joining their ailing organisation by implying in their latest newsletter that only joining BERA will stop over development in these wards. It is also disingenuous of the BERA Chairman Mr Woodley to suggest that BERA stop councillors becoming complacent in the areas it represent, currently Thorpe ward at present, when Mr Woodley and BERA treasurer Mike Stafford are local Thorpe ward councillors! You really couldn't make it up.

I find it incredulous that Mr Woodley dares suggests that West Shoebury councillors do not care about residents who live in areas covered by Burges Estate in West Shoebury, especially as one of my fellow ward councillors lives in an area of West Shoebury that is covered by the Burges Estate.

To reassure Mr Woodley, Instead of trying to hide behind BERA for political purposes or use the Echo letters page to run nasty smear campaigns against political opponents I will be getting on with what residents of West Shoebury elected me to do - tackle the issues that matter to them most.

Yours Faithfully

Cllr Tony Cox
West Shoebury Ward
West Road

Monday, 7 November 2011

Olympic Torch Relay

Excellent news breaking this morning that Southend will be hosting the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay on the 6th July. I will post more details as they emerge.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

BERA - The Truth Unravels

Last week I posted regarding the expansion of the Burges Residents Association (BERA) in West Shoebury and this week the story made the Southend Echo prompting further intrigue.

It is the long held belief by many that Cllr Woodley has used BERA as his own personal political tool. This view may be more widespread than first thought as an eagle eyed contributor to the Echo message boards posted a link to the current BERA accounts which shows membership subscriptions to BERA have decreased by over a third!

Could it be that Cllr Woodley wants to use the funds of West Shoebury residents to prop up his fledgling association? Possibly, as I have never seen him utter a word in the council chamber about West Shoebury.

It was also brought to my attention in this Echo article of a similar charade in St Lukes ward. Having heard very little of Cllr Van Looy's dulcet tones since his election in May his first action was to set up a residents association.

As reported in the Southend Standard, Cllr Van Looy demonstrates his version of democracy by installing Brian Ayling, who featured recently on ITV's Homes From Hell, as chairman before its first meeting!

For those of you who haven't yet guessed it,  Brian Ayling is the Independent Party candidate for St Lukes in next years local elections.      

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Shoebury in the news

Yesterday at cabinet Shoeburyness featured heavily with some exciting developments for Shoebury residents. Firstly, it was agreed that fishing would return to Friars Park after an absence of 20 years. I welcome this move and agree with the police submission that an organised presence will deter anti-social behaviour in the park.

Hinguar School was also on the agenda as it was agreed following a formal consultation that nursery provision will also be made at the new Hinguar School site in the Garrison Development.

Shoebury's history was also discussed where it was agreed that The Cage, Shoeburyness Station Ticket Office and and the Hinguar Street victorian front fascia of the current Hinguar School would be locally listed.

The Hinguar School building has been the subject of much discussion and debate but I believe the proposal agreed by cabinet was the best outcome.

A couple of years ago I was successful in getting the front fascia of the old cinema on Ness Road locally listed and as most of the original features were removed from the original building only the frontage of the building had any architectural value.

The same applies with the current Hinguar School building and am hopeful that a good development could still happen with the victorian front fascia incorporated. 

I do reject the assetion made by the Independent Party that the current building should be for community use as we currently have two community centre's in Shoebury and the Drill Shed in the Garrison will hold a heritage centre for Shoebury.   

Making the best out of a bad situation

It is not often I get the chance to blog about what happens in the west of the town but yesterday I was given a copy of the latest Lib Dem Focus newsletter in St Laurence ward.

The newsletter editor is Carole Roast, a former Lib Dem councillor in St Laurence, who lost her seat in this years local elections to the Conservative candidate Adam Jones.

Many local commentators have suggested that her defeat can be blamed on Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems poor poll ratings since forming the coalition Government, although many residents in St Laurence have indicated that the reason why Carole lost her seat was because she was ineffectual.

Some residents may be aware that the David Lloyd Centre in Southend is part of the St Laurence ward. Recently, the David Lloyd Centre submitted a planning application to install new air conditioning equipment on the northern part of the complex.

The Focus newsletter spoke of how gamely Carole fought for local residents in trying to get this application refused due to concerns about noise and blames Southend's Development & Control Committee for allowing the application.

So good so far, except she forgot to tell St Laurence residents that her St Laurence Lib Dem colleague Cllr Ted Lewin actually sits on the Development & Control Committee. Doh!