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How the demolition of Southend Cricket Pavilion represents a demolition of civic pride

At the Place Scrutiny Committee, a relatively peripheral matter was discussed concerning the Southchurch Park cricket pavilion. Relative because in relation to matters concerning the NHS, education, crime and the environment, a cricket pavilion does not seem like much of a priority.

This does not mean to suggest it is not important though.

Civic Pride

Having met thousands of people across my lifetime from Southend, I would say we are a friendly bunch and always happy to help when needed. When it comes to civic pride, I do think there is a shortfall.

I never hear of anyone talking Southend up - and I am just the same!

I was privileged to become the custodian of the Citizen of Southend Awards that celebrate Southend people who give up their free time to volunteer for good causes.

A humbling experience and I do not do anywhere near enough as I should do.

What it taught me was that there are extraordinary people out there who are making a difference. What Southend would be without them I do not know.

They are natural leaders. People with golden hearts and are great ambassadors for the city. They have civic pride without even knowing it. Their attitude, if it were transferred into politics would change the look and feel of our city.

Repairing or replacing Southchurch Park cricket pavilion may seem an innocuous decision, but it is symbolic of the mentality we have seen run this city over the years.

Had it received the small doses of attention every year that it required, we would now not be facing a significant one-off cost that appears to be a vanity project in these times of high living costs.

Politically it cannot be justified. Few in the community would use it, and so a sizeable investment would present itself as self-indulgent and serve to please only the more affluent of Southend society.

But this is not true.

Cricket is played in all schools and is not exclusive to affluence. It is a very social game that brings communities together. Demolishing it, as is the plan as ‘it has reached the end of its life’, is a direct hit upon civic pride.

Southend Cricket pavilion is effectively the home of cricket in Southend. It is easy to forget that we are a population of almost 200,000 people. We are big enough to justify a decent home.

The under-investment over the years should not be the excuse to close it down. A business case for a new building is going to be made, but in the meantime, it will be reinstated to parkland - as in gone.

It is just one more example of allowing the fabric of Southend to come undone.

We should not be awaiting a business case, as stated in the meeting, because it is not a business, it is a community hub. Maybe now is not the right time to spend money on this type of project, but the intent should be there at some point.

Why it has to cost between £600K to £700K is hard to fathom. Without a ‘business case’ completed how is it that the councillor for the environment, culture and tourism is able to provide that figure?

Projects can cost as much or as little as the budget allows. This estimation appears to have the ceiling a rival to the Sistine Chapel.

This decision is more than just about a cricket pavilion. It is about the message the council are, I believe unwittingly, sending us - that civic pride is not important. Southend is not important. Community and ambition are not important.

When we let simple things like this die, we are giving up on Southend people. We are saying you are not worth it. It weaves itself right into the self-esteem of our city.

If this was an isolated incident, then perhaps this would be somewhat of a dramatisation. But just look at our pavements and roads; our sewage ridden seas; our overflowing hospitals; anti-social behaviour; our desperate High Street and so on.

We need to re-stitch the fabric together and it starts with the little things, such as a simple cricket pavilion.

We can only bring civic pride back when civic pride exists from the top, and though internally this may be true of people on the council, it is their voting record that does the talking. And in this case, swotting it to one side in a manner that did not even consider the impact on the community, unfortunately highlighted where we are.

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