AN AMBITIOUS £4million blueprint to transform part of Southend town centre into a leafy oasis with a “cafe culture” has been unveiled.

Southend Council has revealed the final phases of a revamp of the town centre end of London Road and Victoria Circus.

The project will see a stretch of the London Road, between College Way and Victoria Circus pedestrianised and transformed with trees, colourful planters and brighter lights and interactive lighting in a bid to boost the High Street area.

Southend’s cabinet is set to discuss two options for developing the area, following a series of consultation events with residents, businesses.

Both options under the Southend Central Area Transport Plan include improved street lighting, new block paving of pavements, cycleways and parking bays and landscaping with new trees and planters to entice visitors into the town centre.

A large taxi rank will be moved under the plans to create a cafe culture area.

Traffic approaching the pedestrianised area will be restricted and speed limits will be lowered from 30mph to 20mph but there will be improved access for cyclist.

The measures are being taken to “improved safety, access and mobility in the town centre area and to encourage more walking and cycling. More electric car charging bays will be installed along with areas with feature interactive street lighting brightening areas as people use them.

Ron Woodley, cabinet member for transport, capital and inward investment, said: “Victoria Circus and London Road are a main gateway into the High Street,

and as such we are keen to improve this area.

“The two designs up for review have been devised following many different consultation events, where residents and businesses have told us what they would like to see. Improved street lighting and introducing trees and planters were a common theme, and so I am pleased that both options address that.”

Southend businessmen Martin Richardson was one of those initially invited to the take part in the consultation, but the invitation was later withdrawn. He said: “They uninvited me as a seafront trader because they said it didn’t affect us, but anything in the town centre affects us.

“I welcome anything that improves the High Street, but I don’t think a few planters will help. We need to encourage more businesses there rather than flower beds.”

Kevin Robinson, cabinet member for business, culture and tourism, said making the area nicer would encourage visitors.

He said: “Like many areas across the country, Southend High Street is facing unprecedented challenges.

While many of these challenges fall outside the council’s control, this funding can help us provide a more attractive environment for shoppers, visitors and potential investors. Funding for this work has been secured from central government sources, so we can achieve far more than could have been imagined through our own means.”

Mr Robinson added: “While these works will not solve all of the challenges we face in the town centre, they are a very substantial and welcome boost and hopefully provide a catalyst for further growth and investment.”

The work, which should begin within weeks, follows £2.5million improvements to Victoria Avenue and the Queensway London Road roundabout and College Way.