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Returning Ambition to the Pier and Southend

Updated: May 25, 2023

Potholes have become the ambition of Southend, where once-upon-a-time it was the world’s longest pleasure pier!

The people behind the creation of Southend were presumably highly intelligent, practical and ambitious. 

They seemed to develop infrastructure that was community driven where people were brought together. From the Westcliff Lido, Warrior Square Swimming Pool to Southend Marine Activity Centre, York Road Market and Europe's biggest amusement park, the Kursaal. 

One such ambitious development was the world's longest pleasure pier. 

Today it would never happen.

Dreaming big in our era is to paint a fence, plant a tree or replace a cracked paving stone with asphalt. God forbide we fix the potholes!

Residents no longer cry out for anything much these days, such has our expectation decayed.

We have a fight on our hands to retain weekly bin collections, turning our street lights back on at night, having our grass cut more than once a year, enjoying our parks without having to pay for parking, and preventing the council from putting all parking charges, council tax, fees, charges and rents up continually. That's aside from defending Jazz UK from eviction from the Beecroft, demolishing Southend Cricket Pavilion, somehow bringing Southend High Street back to life and ensuring Southend's sea is clear from sewage.

I don’t know what has happened with our visualisers over the last number of decades, it's almost as though they do not live in Southend and do not stand to benefit from any positive changes that are made. As long as the spreadsheet is balanced, the ambition is fulfilled. 

Whilst our ancestors looked so far ahead they built a whole town with roads, schools, hospitals, houses, parks, long pleasure piers, swimming pools, sports clubs and high streets, our more recent generations seem to have done well with the wrecking ball. Even my old school, Thorpe Bay High, has been demolished!

This is not to take aim at any one individual, political party or system, and there are many great things that have taken place in Southend such as the University of Essex, City Beach, our beautiful parks, the preservation of Old Leigh and Leigh Broadway, we just have to be honest with ourselves and accept that we have lost our way somewhat.

So when we talk about the world's longest pleasure pier, that happens to be on our doorstep, what do we do with it? 

The Pier

The Pier itself is in good shape. The boards are sturdy. The view on a sunny day is magnificent. You can even see seals on a lucky day. The trains are new and visitor records have been broken so someone out there will have enjoyed some back-patting!

It also just won a competition recently, but Southend residents all know the truth - there is very little on the Pier that is in keeping with what it promises to be.

The Pier should be the Eiffel Tower of the UK. 

It should be the most romantic place that oozes the uniqueness of the era of its birth. 

It should be a blast of everything that made that era and that gives us a sense of what it was like. 

So, what can we do?

Commercially, traditional souvinir shops, photo opportunities, fish & chip restaurants, and seaside fayre would easily make a good living if run in the right way. Pretty boring but it would pay for other things. 

How about building a world class bandstand where the talent of Southend can showcase themselves to hundreds of thousands of visitors?

What if we made much more of the functionality of the Pier such as the RNLI building, fishing, shipping and conservation, and weave into it the visitor experience?

What about building on attracting more ships for visitors at the end of the Pier such as the El Galeon?  This was excellent and those involved should be commended.

What if we enhanced the Southend museum, where residents could have a deeper understanding of our history and walk back with a sense of civic pride, and tourists walk away with a new found admiration for our culture?

A mini-theatre would seem a step too far, but what if?

How about a mini Eden Project that could focus on the marine environment?

But let's assume they are all bad ideas, so I say let's put it to the people and launch a city-wide campaign to search for the best ideas Southend has to offer. As one wiser than me once said, "the cheapest thing in the world are other people brains"!

Southend residents are bursting with ideas and I have no doubt that there will be hundreds of commercially viable and culturally enhancing schemes that would come from a project like this.

Let us see the Pier as the symbol of Southend that exudes the ambition, invention and imagination that our old town was founded on and that our new city could be inspired by.

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Steve Bobin
Steve Bobin
15 Mei 2023

Both my wife and I have to use mobility scooters as a means of transport. If a council used on in our are the pavement and potholes problem would be sorted out in no time at all.

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