A NEW skate park will be built in Southend town centre in a bid to get nuisance youths off the streets.
The plans – spearheaded by James Courtenay, councillor responsible for children and learning – have been five years in the making.
Skaters and bikers currently use a makeshift park outside Southend Victoria station, on the corner of Victoria Avenue, and Queensway, but Mr Courtenay wants to give them a permanent base.
A location is still to be decided as the plans, outlined in the council’s Capital Programme, are in the early stages – but it will have a central position.
Mr Courtenay said: “There is already a wheeled sports facility in Leigh and Shoebury, and it is not just skate boarders who use it, people with BMX’s and rollerblades do as well.
“When I joined the council in 2012 I went out on lots of visits, I talked to children and young adults and social workers of youth offenders.
“I also spoke to the youth council and I asked everyone what they wanted. The idea for a skate park came up. There are a lot of skaters that use the area outside Southend Victoria as a makeshift skating park but they need an official park.
“I had a lot of resistance to the idea and there was an argument that there were already facilities in Leigh and Shoebury but the point was that if you couldn’t drive, you couldn’t get to those facilities.”
The council has so far allocated £250,000 for the scheme, with plans to secure further grants.
Mr Courtenay added: “By keeping on, doing the research and talking to the young people I represent, everyone saw it was a good idea and I am delighted it is going to happen.
“We are hoping to get young people involved in the design aspect to give them a sense of purpose and have ownership of the park. It will also ensure that the young people get a facility that they want and will use.”
John Jenkins, Southend youth mayor, said: “It’s fantastic news. I’m sure the youth in Southend will enjoy the facilities.”
Edward Feddon, deputy youth mayor, added: “It’s great news that Southend is getting its very own skate park, which has been long overdue. I’m sure the young people in Southend will enjoy their new facility.”