AN MP has refused to present to Parliament a petition calling for a public inquiry into Southend Council’s handling of the controversial Shoebury seawall issue.
James Duddridge, MP for Rochford and Southend East, has called on the council to review its plans for a 7ft seawall across Shoebury Common, saying to press ahead would be “inconceivable”.
But the Conservative has refused to present the 2,000- name petition, which calls on the Government to investigate how the council agreed to go ahead with the £5.18million scheme in the face of massive public opposition.
In a letter to the Friends of Shoebury Common, which organised the petition, the MP said: “It is currently not the responsibility of elected officials in Westminster, or bureaucrats in Whitehall, to determine what is right for the seawall in Shoebury, for the business owners and residents.
“As I have said already, these decisions are best made locally, with local residents at the centre of this process.
“For this reason, I do not feel it appropriate to present your petition to Parliament.
“It is the responsibility of the local council, and neither Parliament nor the Secretary of State should take this decision.”
Mr Duddridge revealed he had received more than 100 representations on the issue and passed them all on to the council.
The authority’s new joint administration – made up of Independents, Labour and Lib Dems, which has taken over from the Conservatives after last month’s elections – has pledged to review the seawall, which was opposed by eight out of 10 respondents to a consultation and received more than 2,000 letters of objection.
Mr Duddridge has backed the review, but insisted flood defences in Shoebury needed to be improved. He said: “It is fair to say there were some failings in the consultation process from Southend Counci.
“I would like to see the council look at this issue again and see if the proposals are the right solution, while also looking at other possible solutions to ensure the correct outcome is achieved.”
Daphne Johnson, of the Friends of Shoebury Common, which has pledged to find another way to alert the Government to the matter, said: “This is not only about the seawall proposal, but also the fact the views of local people were totally dismissed.
“With 2,000 people signing statements saying they were opposed to the proposed seawall/ embankment and only four in favour, approving the planning application and disregarding public opinion was wholly undemocratic.”