Legislators say the robust devices would be primarily used to better corral seafront parking and traffic; arcade operators say rubbish. In a defiant ‘you don’t know what you’re doing’ stance, Happidrome’s Martin Richardson is on the campaigning trail once again.
Southend Council is looking into splurging on expensive new anti-terror defences for high-prolific events on the town’s seafront – to the apparent ire of locals and amusement stakeholders.
According to the Southend Echo, the local authority joined Essex Police last week at a demonstration of Belgium firm Pitagone’s “modular barrier,” which is designed to resist substantial impacts – and won’t budge even if hit by a 7.5 tonne truck travelling at speed.
Billed by its designers as“a unique and mobile solution against ramming attacks,” devices similar to the Pitagone barrier have been deployed with ever increasing frequency at high-profile public gatherings ever since a truck attack in Nice killed over 80 people in the summer of 2016.
Southend police inspector Ian Hughes said that the safety demonstration last week had been “impressive,” but council officers downplayed the barrier’s anti- terror utility: claiming that their interest lay principally in the product’s traffic-control applications.
“The motivation from my point of view as portfolio leader for public protection was more a lower level safety,” said Tory councillor Mark Flewitt.“If the police advised us that they have a dual use then okay, I don’t see the harm in that, but from the council’s point of view they are for traffic management.”
But the news provoked a fair amount of head-scratching amongst local residents and business owners.
“The bollards in the High Street don’t work …fix those before you start thinking about buying fancy barriers for anti-terrorist control,” said one user on the Echo’s website. “As Southend is not a hot bed of terrorist threats (or is it,and they are not telling us?), the money could be better spent.”
Martin Richardson of the Happidrome Arcade on the town’s Esplanade, a vocal campaigner for better trans- port facilities in the seaside resort,was similarly baffled.
“For eight years we’ve been told the seafront was a safe, shared space, and has been promoted as an award- winning design,” he remarked on Facebook.“The council has already built solid concrete bases on the Sun Shelters as an anti-terror measure…and now these!”
Indeed, to Richardson’s mind, both security and cost-saving objectives would be better met were local legislators to recalibrate their efforts towards the provision of more ample parking spaces.
“Replace the car parking along the seafront [and] charge premium prices – the cars will act as a deterrent,”he suggested. “Not only does that helps us out with additional spaces [but] each space can generate over and above £5,000 per year.”
Richardson argues that this idea would open up 80 plus spaces bring in additional revenue to the council which could be used to improve the quality of the walkways. “Refit the kerbs,” he suggests on a recent posting, “partial sighted people struggle, not even fully able people can cross the road easy.”
The Happidrome boss is very clear with his vision for traffic and parking conditions in the resort:“People and cars need separation not intervention. Go back to what works!”