Falling apart…

Back in March, we wrote about the complex planning chain involving the housing development at Dry Street, the re-location of the Basildon campus of South Essex College to the current site of Basildon Market and the re-location of the market to St. Martin’s Square: A breakdown in the chain?https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/03/27/a-breakdown-in-the-chain/ Well, evidence is growing that there really is a break in the chain, one that centres around the fate of the Basildon campus of South Essex College…

We noted with interest this comment on the GAG2011 Facebook page:
Are South Essex College actually quitting Basildon leaving behind a mess? They were the key factor in the Nethermayne /Dry Street development. The plan to sell the current college land and relocate to the town centre was essential for the development to go ahead. Basildon Council agreed to move the market and allow a new college to be built. Basildon Council were so committed they even got Essex CC to give them more money when they ran out of cash relocating the market. Phase 2 of the development which involves demolition of the college has now been granted but there is no sign of a new one and now the college is in special measures. So are the young people of Basildon going to lose the college altogether? We want to know!
Now in a previous guise, we’ve had our differences with GAG2011 over tactics but what we like about them is that they are pretty thorough when it comes to researching stuff and backing up statements with facts. So their comment above has to be taken seriously. Whether Basildon Council (and South Essex College for that matter) will ever come up with a straight answer is however, another matter…

South Essex College are currently in special measures – https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/628656/SFA-Current_Notices_of_Concern_and_Serious_Breach-Issue-17-July_2017_fin….pdf With Phase Two of the housing development at Dry Street having received detailed planning permission, logically the demolition of the current site of the college should be getting underway at some point. However, work on the re-location of the market is proceeding at a snail’s pace and there’s no sign of any progress being made on re-locating the college to the town centre. There’s growing speculation that there may be no long term future for South Essex College in Basildon…

It’s well worth reading the comments below the post quoted above on the GAG2011 Facebook page as they reveal a total breakdown of trust in the planning system and a considerable degree of cynicism about the integrity of local government. A growing number of people are coming to the realisation that Basildon Council have pulled the wool over people’s eyes regarding this planning chain that has resulted in the destruction of much loved open space at Dry Street and the desecration of St. Martin’s Square. It looks as though the council (and the college) could well deservedly become victims of their own hubris…

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St. Martin’s Square, Basildon – what (if anything) is happening?


Photo from GAG2011

In a previous piece, we wrote about the complex development chain that starts with a development of executive style homes at Dry Street, part of which will be on the site currently occupied by the Basildon campus of South Essex College which is scheduled to be moved to the site currently occupied by Basildon Market which is being moved to St. Martin’s Square: A breakdown in the chain?https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/03/27/a-breakdown-in-the-chain/

We’ve heard anecdotal evidence from a staff member at the Basildon campus of South Essex College that it’s already being run down even though there’s absolutely no move on building the new campus on the site of the market. This is on top of stories circulating that all is not well at South Essex College. Then we see the photograph of the ‘work’ at St. Martin’s Square to prepare it for the re-location of the market. Note the use of quotation marks around ‘work’ because to all intents and purposes, it would appear that the ‘work’ has more or less ground to a snail’s pace.

On the Facebook page of the local amenity group, GAG2011https://www.facebook.com/gag2011/ – they’re quite rightly raising the question of whether Basildon Council have run out of money again? Given the loss of the trees and seating that made St. Martin’s Square a welcome oasis to relax in while taking a break from the shopping during the summer months, a fair number of residents would like an answer to that question as well. If anyone could enlighten us as to what the heck, if anything, is happening with this complex but seemingly broken chain of development, we’d love to hear from you!

It’s getting harder to escape the impression that Basildon Council (and South Essex College) are becoming victims of their own hubris and arrogance. As we’ve written before, this is what happens with a top down planning system that wilfully refuses to take on board the concerns of people who are impacted by schemes they feel are being imposed upon them.

A breakdown in the chain?

The Basildon campus of South Essex College is to be moved onto the current site of Basildon Market. The market (what’s left of it after stupidly high rent rises) is being relocated to St. Martin’s Square – construction / destruction work to facilitate this is already underway. The relocation of the college is being funded (in part) by the sale of the current site to Redrow to form part of their Dry Street housing development. Complicated isn’t it? Particularly when the finances of the college are being called into question plus the fact that Essex County Council have had to put in £1.75million to make up for a cash shortfall for the work needed to move the market and clear the site for the college to move in: Lib Dems calls for assurances over South Essex College move amid fears over college financeshttp://www.echo-news.co.uk/news/15163679.Lib_Dems_calls_for_assurances_over_South_Essex_College_move_amid_fears_over_college_finances/

A housing development consisting mainly of executive style homes aimed at affluent commuters which will do zilch to clear the (seriously manipulated downwards) council housing waiting list is being built on the spacious site of a college which is moving to a town centre site where it will be nigh on impossible for it to expand should the need arise. This is combined with the unpopular move of the market involving the destruction of the only space in the town centre, St. Martin’s Square, where when the weather was right, people were able to chill out and relax before, during or after shopping or a visit to the Towngate. Seriously, you couldn’t make this up could you?

Hubris is one word that can be used to describe the arrogance of Basildon Council, South Essex College and Redrow homes in pushing forwards with this chain of developments despite widespread doubts, scepticism and outright objections from a sizeable number of people in the town. This is what happens with top down planning that’s forced on the people of Basildon with little or no meaningful consultation let alone any willingness to listen to people’s concerns and objections. Clear evidence that the system of local governance we have is not fit for purpose as people feel that planning is something that’s done to them rather than a process they can have any active, constructive engagement with.

Is it any wonder that people’s cynicism with local (and central) government is growing by the day with this level of hubris laced with sheer incompetence? What’s needed is a planning system led by the people whose experience of living in a town combines with valuable strands of local knowledge that will deliver a result that pretty much everyone will feel they have a stake in. Mind you, that will only come about after the existing political, economic and social order has been rebuilt from the ground up to meet people’s needs as opposed to satisfying the demands of the bottom line…