As a lifelong, proud Southender, I have held an affection for what our sea front area offers for as long as I can remember, but I try to avoid it when there are queues and crowds. There are not many of those days, these days, but today was one of them. I think it being near to the end of a variable weather wise summer, people decided to use this holiday, especially while the sun shone, to enjoy the delights of the sea side, and they came to town in their droves, as happened at the start of the summer, during the Easter holiday.
I got an inkling of what sort of day it was going to be when I dropped a couple of lads off at Adventure Island, around 10am, to begin their shift. I saw something that I witnessed for the first time this summer around this time of the day – lots of people. I decide to briefly cruise the sea front as I often do and was struck even then there was not much parking available. I could also see large queues as people paid for a parking ticket at one of the meters. Later, during the day, as we decided to stay at home and potter in the garden etc., I read reports of traffic congestion coming into town, and of full car parks.
There was as I recall a similar scenario that occurred at the start of the summer and no doubt on other occasions also. Besides the disruption to residents living along these routes or near the sea front, I couldn’t help feeling sorry of the folk who had to endure this inconvenience. Moreover, I couldn’t help feel for the seafront traders, as they seek to make hay while the sun shines, because if visitors were like me they would be disinclined to visit the sea front again if such hassle were to be a strong possibility. While Southend has long recognized the need for a year round economy, seasonal seaside attractions still have an important part to play in providing jobs and revenue in order to provide income for needed services.
The obvious question is what to do to prevent similar occurrences regarding traffic mayhem on future occasions when ideal weather and holiday times coincide. I fear we are a long way from cracking the problem. I realize there may be no obvious solution if cars remain visitors’ main means of coming to town but a solution is needed. Park and ride into town (for free) is a suggestion and that is just one. It would be a lost opportunity if we continue as we do. It is regrettable there are no plans by our Council to remedy the problem. Unless we change, a repeat of what we saw today is inevitable.