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Southend-on-Sea

[south-end-on-see, -awn-]

Southend-on-Sea is a seaside resort and unitary authority area in the East of England. Southend-on-Sea, which has Borough status, is part of the ceremonial county of Essex and is located on the north side of the Thames estuary roughly 40 miles (65 km) east of central London. It is bordered to the north by Rochford and to the west by Castle Point. Southend is twinned with the Polish seaside resort of Sopot.

History

Originally the south end of the village of Prittlewell, Southend became a popular seaside resort for people during the Georgian era. Owing to its proximity to London and easy access by train, the town's economy has largely been based on tourism ever since. Southend Pier is the world's longest pleasure pier at 1.34 miles (2158 m). Over the years the pier has suffered fires and ship collisions, most recently in October 2005, but it has been repaired each time.

With the decline of traditional British sea-side resorts, from the 1960s onwards much of the centre of Southend was developed as a centre of commerce, and many of the original features of this once-attractive Victorian seaside town were destroyed through redevelopment or neglect. H.M. Revenue & Customs (HMRC), (formerly H.M. Customs and Excise), are major employers in the town, and the central offices for the collection of VAT are located there. Southend recently opened the new University of Essex, Southend, aimed at boosting the town's flagging economy.

There are nine railway stations within the Borough boundary serving the many Southend residents who commute to work in London.

Governance

Local government district

Southend-on-Sea was formed as a municipal borough in 1892 with the functions of local government shared with Essex County Council. In 1913 the borough was enlarged by gaining the former area of Leigh on Sea Urban District. In 1914 the enlarged Southend-on-Sea gained the status of county borough, exempt from county council control and a single-tier of local government. The county borough was enlarged in 1933 by gaining the former area of Shoeburyness Urban District and part of Rochford Rural District.

In 1974, under the Local Government Act 1972, Southend on Sea became a district of Essex with borough status, however in 1998 it again became the single tier of local government when it became a unitary authority.

Council

There are currently 17 wards each returning three councillors, making a total of 51. Councillors serve a four year term and are elected by thirds (i.e. one third of the council is elected each year, followed by one year without election). Following the 2007 local elections and a 2007 by-election, the composition is:

Affiliation Councillors
  Conservative Party 29
  Liberal Democrats 10
  Labour Party 7
  Independent 5
The council is thus controlled by the Conservative Party. Most day to day decisions of the council are made up of a 10 member executive cabinet headed by the council leader.

Alliance Southend was formed when two independent councillors from Westborough Ward were joined by Roger and Verina Weaver - two councillors who left the Conservative Party. The latter two are no longer members of the Council and two new Independents have been elected. The total of 4 Independents now have formed a group called Independents Alliance 4 Southend.

The town's coat-of-arms bears the motto 'Per Mare Per Ecclesiam' which translates into 'By the Sea and By the Church', reflecting Southend's historic position between the Church at Prittlewell and the sea as in the Thames estuary.

The town is twinned with the resort town of Sopot in Poland. Sopot is the location of the longest wooden pier in Europe, while Southend is the location of the longest iron pleasure pier in the world.

Southend Borough Council was strongly criticised in a damning report as being one of the worst financially managed local authorities in England by the independent Audit Commission annual report for the 2006/7 financial year, being only one of three councils to gain only one out of four stars, the others being Liverpool and the Isles of Scilly. Areas of criticism were the use of highly paid consultants and the spending of £3.5 million on taxis during the 2006/7 financial year.

Members of Parliament

Southend is represented by two MPs at Westminster.

The MP for Southend West has been, since 1997, David Amess (Conservative) who replaced Paul Channon.

Since the 2005 General Election the MP for Southend East and nearby Rochford has been James Duddridge (Conservative), who replaced the long serving MP Sir Teddy Taylor. Despite its name the majority of the constituency is in Southend, Rochford makes up only a small part and the majority of Rochford District Council is actually represented by the MP for Rayleigh. Both seats are considered to be "safe seats" for the Conservative Party.

Economy

This is a chart of trend of regional gross value added of Southend-on-Sea at current basic prices published (pp.240-253) by Office for National Statistics with figures in millions of British Pounds Sterling.
Year Regional Gross Value Added Agriculture Industry Services
1995 1,373 2 305 1,066
2000 1,821 1 375 1,445
2003 2,083 - 418 1,665

Transport

Railways

Southend is served by two railway lines. Running from Southend Victoria northwards out of the town is the Liverpool Street line, a branch of the Great Eastern Main Line currently operated by National Express East Anglia. The service operates to London Liverpool Street via Prittlewell, Rochford, Hockley, Rayleigh, Wickford, Billericay, Shenfield and Stratford.

The London, Tilbury and Southend Railway, known as the Fenchurch Street line, is currently operated by c2c and runs from Shoeburyness in the east of the borough, west through Thorpe Bay, Southend East, Southend Central to Fenchurch Street in London via Benfleet and Basildon or Tilbury and Barking. Additionally, two services from Southend Central each weekday evening terminate at Liverpool Street.

From 1910 to 1939, the London Underground's District Line's eastbound service ran as far as Southend and Shoeburyness.

Road

There are two main A-Roads connecting Southend with London and the rest of the country, the A127 (The Southend Arterial Road), via Basildon and Romford, and the A13, via Tilbury and London Docklands. Both are major routes. However, within the borough of Southend, the A13 is primarily a single carriageway local route, whereas the A127 is almost entirely a dual carriageway. Both roads lead to the M25.

Buses

Local public transport is served by two main bus companies, Arriva Southend (formerly the council owned Southend Corporation Transport) and First Essex Buses (formerly known as Eastern National/Thamesway). Other minor bus companies serving the town include Stephensons of Essex, Stansted Transit and Regal Busways.

Southend Transport (more recently Arriva) operated a coach service to Victoria Coach Station under the Greenline brand; this is now run by Stephensons of Essex, but was withdrawn on July 11, 2008. There is also a National Express coach service (route 305) to Liverpool, which operates daily.

Southend Airport

London Southend Airport was developed from the former military airfield at Rochford, and offers a mix of engineering and maintenance facilities, aviation and pilot training, corporate and recreational flights, and scheduled flights to Jersey on summer Saturdays. There are plans to expand the airport, including incorporation of a railway station, in 2009.

Education

Secondary schools

In 2004 Southend remained one of the areas of the UK that retain the grammar school system and has four schools of this type: Southend High School for Boys, Southend High School for Girls, Westcliff High School for Boys and Westcliff High School for Girls. Additionally there are two single sex schools assisted by the Roman Catholic church: St Bernard's High School for Girls and St Thomas More High School for Boys. Both of these, while not technically grammar schools, contain a grammar stream; entrance to these streams is gained by passing the same entrance exam as the grammar schools. The other 8 main-stream secondary schools in the area are all mixed sex comprehensive schools, including Cecil Jones College, The King John School, Deans, Chase High School (formerly Prittlewell High School), Thorpe Hall School, Futures Community College (formerly Thorpe Bay High School), Shoeburyness High School and The Eastwood School.

Further and higher education

A number of secondary schools in the area offer further education, but the largest provider of further education is South East Essex College , located in a new building in the centre of town.

Currently the College offers over thirty degree courses matriculated by the University of Essex. The university's centre in the town is currently a single building on the High Street The University, however, has built its own centre in Southend, located next to the new College building on the site of the old Odeon cinema. These buildings form the first two phases of the Southend Campus. The University notes that 'South Essex is probably the largest conurbation in the country without a significant higher education presence'. This development will change this.

Entertainment and culture

Seafront attractions

The town is well known for its seafront attractions. Since 1986, a diesel-hydraulic railway has been running the length of the famous pier, replacing the original electric service which opened in 1890. A fire in October 2005 seriously damaged the far end of the pier. The pier has been beset by a history of fires, the previous occasion, in 1995 destroyed the bowling alley at the start of the pier. The pier was also run through by a boat in 1984.

The Kursaal was one of the earliest theme parks, built at the start of the 20th century. It closed in the 1970s and much of the land was developed as housing. The entrance hall, a listed building, is now a bowling alley arcade (operated by Megabowl) and casino.

Another newer theme park, Adventure Island, developed on land formerly occupied by Peter Pan's Playground, straddles the pier entrance. It is a popular attraction for both adults and children, and despite a restriction on available land has continued to grow into a large amusement park with over 50 rides. The sea-front also houses a "Sea-Life Centre" aquarium.

The cliff gardens, which included Never Never Land, and Victorian bandstand were a popular attraction until slippage in 2003 made parts of the cliffs unstable, and the bandstand has been removed for safe keeping. The council has expressed its desire to re-erect the bandstand but a suitable location has yet to be found.

A modern cliff lift links the base of the High Street with the new pier entrance. The older cliff lift, a short funicular railway, is located a few hundred metres away, now closed because structural and mechanical work needs to be done in order to meet European Union Legislation which classes it as a cablecar.

In August the Southend Carnival is opened along the Golden Mile with the lighting of the Southend Illuminations which continue until November. (The Council authorities decided that due to the need for repair to meet Health & Safety requirements, and funding issues, the Illuminations would not be held in 2007 and 2008).

On the second and fourth Saturdays of the month, Southend hosts one of the busiest farmers markets in the county.

Theatres

There are three theatres in the town.

The Cliffs Pavilion is a large building and is able to host different forms of show including musical concerts, and performances on ice.

The most recent theatre is the New Empire Theatre. It is, unlike the other two theatres, privately owned. It is used far more by amateur dramatic groups. The theatre was converted from the former ABC Cinema, which itself was originally a theatre, built in 1896. Therefore, as well as being Southend's newest theatre, it is arguably the oldest as well.

The Edwardian era Palace Theatre is a grade II listed building built in 1912. It shows plays from professional troupes and repertory groups, as well as some comedy acts. The theatre has two circles and is noted for having the steepest rake in Britain. Part of the theatre was a smaller venue called "The Dixon Studio". This was used for more intimate performances.

Sport

Southend boasts two football teams, one of league stature, Southend United, which is managed by former player Steve Tilson, the other being Southend Manor, who play in the Essex Senior League. United competed in Football League One (the third highest division of the English football league system) after being relegated after finishing third from bottom of Football League Championship at the end of the 2006-07 season.

There are 2 rugby clubs in town with a nationwide profile, Southend R.F.C. and Westcliff R.F.C., with Southend having the superior men's first team (playing in National Division 2) but Westcliff having the more developed youth set up.

County Cricket is played at Southend by Essex County Cricket Club for one week during the season. Previously the festival was held at Southchurch Park, but it has now moved to a newer facility at Garon Park. That aside, the only cricket in Southend is local league Cricket.

Southends 8 lane, floodlit, synthetic athletics track at Southend Leisure and Tennis Centre is the home ground to Southend-on-Sea Athletic Club. The facilities include all track and field events. More information on Southend-on-Sea Athletic Club can be found below:

Music

The establishment of Southends most hyped club, Junk Club By The Horrors Rhys Webb and Oliver Abbott (Von Blitz) aided by Ciaran O'Shea, in the basement of the Royal Hotel on Southend seafront in 2002 heralded the creation of a 'Southend scene' and led to the club being in every national magazine including NME, Rolling Stone and Vogue.. Bands associated with the scene included The Horrors, These New Puritans, The Violets, Errorplains and Neils Children. Junk was terminated in 2006, with a subsequent night, the Experimental Circle Club, was set up by Thomas Silverman & Junk's Ciaran O'Shea, and now operates in both Southend and London. Rockit also sprang out of junk, which is run by Oliver Abbott (JUNK) playing more underground Black music such as Dancehall and rare soul. Chinnery's is the biggest venue of live music in Southend-on-Sea and has had a huge number of 'named' bands play there, especially over the past few years. Arctic Monkeys, Zebrahead, Lost Prophets to name but a few.

Southend is also known for its varied and thriving electronic music scene. The town has well established nights and venues at both the commercial and underground ends of the spectrum. The biggest underground music venue in Southend is the 3 floor Royal Hotel which hosts nights such as PshFWD, Wobble, Mata Boo Boo and Telephasic featuring house, techno, dubstep, breaks and electro. Also the Sunrooms which champions all aspects of creative music.

Radio

In 1981, Southend-on-Sea became the home of the county's radio station, Essex Radio, which broadcast from studios below Clifftown Road. In 2004, the renamed Essex FM moved to studios located in Chelmsford.

On the 31st of March 2008, a local radio station, Southend Radio started broadcasting on 105.1FM from studios adjacent to the Adventure Island theme park. The station won its licence to broadcast in April 2006, beating three competitors.

Charity

The Southend Branch of Leukaemia Research organises Bikeathons to raise money for the Charity. Southend Bikeathon

Notable people from Southend

References

See also

Towns within the Borough of Southend

Chalkwell, Eastwood, Leigh-on-Sea, Prittlewell, Shoeburyness, Southchurch, Thorpe Bay, Westcliff-on-Sea

External links

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