Southend amusements faithful Martin Richardson says that in starving the seafront of convenient parking, the town council is cutting it’s nose off to spite it’s face
Southend-on-Sea’s Happidrome arcade director Martin Richardson has spoken to Coinslot of his frustrations with the ongoing mismanagement of the seafront on the part of the local council, saying that the town’s coastal businesses are in “desperate need” of convenient parking.
“The council doesn’t own much on the seafront anymore – so they have no direct vested interest in it,” he told us. “But everybody comes to Southend for the arcades, the pier, the coastal offering. If you cut off access to this particular part of the economy, then you’re essentially cutting off the town’s lifeline.”
Southend Borough Council is still knee-deep in its commitment to the Turnstone Estates’ Southend Seaway project: a multi-million pound leisure complex which is still yet to be realised – despite having been in the works since 2012. For the princely sum of £1, legislators granted Turnstone a massive chunk of prime seafront real-estate – and simultaneously eliminated the lion’s share of convenient parking spaces for the pier and other nearby amusement businesses like Happidrome.
“We’ve said to the council repeatedly over the past seven years, please put parking back on the seafront,” Richardson explained. “The area they’ve concreted over for Seaway has never been used for anything else. But as soon as you start questioning them, they cast you as a bunch of moany seafront traders.”
The arcade owner’s comments come fresh off the back of a public spat played out online between Adventure Island owner Phillip Miller MBE and the deputy leader of the local borough council, James Courtenay. In protest of an annual hike in the cost of (now much reduced) council parking in town earlier this month, Miller took to Twitter to support the complaint of one local resident bemoaning the potential negative impact on coastal enterprise.
“Killing off trade is never new to your administration, James,” quipped Miller, tagging the councillor directly. “I suppose it’s not your fault, just following orders as you do as leader?” Directly referencing the Seaway parking debacle, Miller would go on to declare that he would “love to buy the Seaway car park for market price…[and] not the £1 you gave it away for.”
Back at the Happidrome meanwhile, and Richardson has direct experience of what Miller has publicly declared to be the council’s ongoing “naivety in business.”
“Time and again, our interactions with the council are negative – where they dismiss our concerns about lack of investment in the assets we already have here with statistics of increased visitor numbers,” he remarked. “But on the ground what we’ve been seeing is a marked decline in the three R’s – remain-time, returning visits, and recommendations. For me, that’s an indictment on the local government – and suggests that councillors are putting short-term goals ahead of the long-term well-being of the community.”