A ‘heritage asset’ where the lifts don’t work and the windows leak

The ‘regeneration’ of Basildon town centre has been under discussion for a number of years now accompanied by the occasional ‘consultation’ exercise. From anecdotal evidence we’ve heard, these ‘consultation’ exercises seem to avoid any meaningful engagement with the residents of Brooke House, the unmissable block shown above that’s located slap bang in the middle of Basildon town centre.

Brooke House is a Grade II listed building and has been described by Basildon Council in their bullshit ‘regeneration’ propaganda as a ‘heritage asset’. You can see this description for yourself if you visit the premises near the Entertainer toy shop taken over by the council to display their plans for the town centre.

Let’s get one thing straight, Brooke House is more than a Grade II listed building or a ‘heritage asset’ – it’s where people live. Given the deteriorating conditions inside the block, it would appear that this is something Basildon Council can’t really grasp: The state (and future) of Brooke Househttps://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/12/22/the-state-and-future-of-brooke-house/

Over the weekend of the 20th and 21st January, the lift serving the even floors was only working intermittently before packing up completely. The lift to the odd floors was working but very slowly and in almost complete darkness. Residents frequently had no option but to use the stairwells. Stairwells that as a result of the wet weather over the weekend and leaking windows were soaking wet, slippery and dangerous to use.

So, in the 21st century in a supposedly advanced country, we have a residential tower block in the middle of a town centre with malfunctioning / broken lifts and a soaking wet stairwell that has rightly been described as a death trap because the windows aren’t getting fixed. All of which gives the impression that the policy of Basildon Council regarding Brooke House is one of managed decline that will force tenants and residents to seek alternative accommodation. The idea being is that once the block is empty, the council can offload it to a developer and trouser the cash.

Basildon Council now have a fight on their hands with the newly formed and vocal Brooke House Residents Basildon group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/1587080528053394/ and a proactive local councillor willing to hassle the council until they start to take a genuine interest in the people living in the block. As with our previous post about Havering Council’s estate ‘regeneration’ plans, local authorities need a sharp reminder that when they talk about this, it’s not just buildings, it’s peoples’ lives they’re playing with…

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The state (and future) of Brooke House

Above is an exterior shot of the iconic Brooke House tower block situated in East Square which is right in the heart of Basildon town centre. East Square is going to be comprehensively redeveloped. Over the years, there have been various proposals from Basildon Council for the ‘re-generation’ of Brooke House – pretty much all of which involve the removal of current tenants and residents and handing it over to a developer. Looking at the exterior shot of Brooke House, you could be forgiven for thinking that it’s an okay place to live. Enter the block and as you can see from the photographs below, it’s a completely different story. If the state of the public areas inside the block isn’t managed decline by the council designed to ‘persuade’ current tenants and residents to move out, we don’t know what is. With the recent founding of Brooke House Residents Basildonhttps://www.facebook.com/groups/1587080528053394/ we suspect that any future plans for ‘re-generation’ a.k.a. social cleansing will be getting met with some stiff resistance…





Another point of light…

We work closely with Basildon & Southend Action (BASHA) and a key part of our strategy is encouraging residents and tenants to group together to collectively fight for a better deal from the council and to start taking more control over their neighbourhoods and estates. Basically, it’s a strategy of empowerment with our role being that of facilitators and offering practical support as and when required.

For the last six months, we’ve been working with BASHA to facilitate the work of the Vange Hill Community Group (VHCG): Doing it for ourselves on the ¾ estate in Vangehttps://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/12/02/doing-it-for-ourselves-on-the-3/4-estate-in-vange/ See here for the VHCG Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/groups/180311358699122/ We’re now delighted to announce the start of another residents / tenants group we’ll be supporting at Brooke House, the iconic tower block in the middle of Basildon town centre shown above. Here’s the Facebook page for Brooke House Residents Basildonhttps://www.facebook.com/groups/1587080528053394/

The point about this strategy is recognising the fact that no two estates are alike and will experience different issues and problems. The ¾ estate in Vange has suffered from years of neglect and is somewhere the authorities would prefer to dump people and then just forget about them. Brooke House has suffered from years of intentional neglect but as it’s slap bang in the middle of the town centre, it’s been the subject of numerous schemes for ‘regeneration’. Schemes that never seem to take into account the wishes of the residents and tenants of Brooke House who are regarded as a barrier to ‘regeneration’.

So, Brooke House Residents Basildon have the twin task of getting Basildon Council to bring their block up to a decent liveable standard while stopping the very same council from throwing them under the bus and decanting them before flogging the block to a developer. We and BASHA will be doing our level best to support them in those tasks. Fortunately, unlike the ¾ estate in Vange where the two ward councillors are conspicuous by their absence, the residents and tenants of Brooke House have at least one ward councillor is is proactive and wants to support them in taking the council to task.

None of this is easy. It’s the kind of grassroots community action that has to have a lot of time and energy invested before it starts to get results. However, if we are going to build a movement for real change, this is where we have to start…

Notice to Basildon Council – FFS, listen to your tenants!

For years, residents at Brooke House have been nagging an out of touch, arrogant Basildon Council to be open and honest with them about the future of their block to no avail. When there was a consultation about the future of the town centre, the council somehow managed to avoid sending consultation forms to any of the residents in Brooke House – a blatant snub if ever there was one. As for maintenance of the block, a quick tour round the public areas is enough to confirm that Basildon Council’s policy is one of blatant neglect although, in private, they might like to refer to this as ‘managed decline’. It’s common knowledge that the council want Brooke House ‘re-developed’ as soon as the right offer comes along and that they couldn’t give a s*** about the residents currently living there.

With the full horror of the fire at Grenfell Tower in West London still to be revealed, it’s understandable that anyone living in a tower block is going to be worried about fire safety issues. While Brooke House doesn’t have cladding that would pose a serious fire risk (the building is listed), there are concerns about escape routes in the block. The damaged and un-repaired stair rails, steps, etc. in the block don’t exactly inspire confidence. If anyone from Basildon Council is reading this, in the next few weeks, in conjunction with our friends at Basildon & Southend Housing Action we intend to undertake our own survey of the public areas of the block and we’ll be publishing our findings here on this blog…

Away from Brooke House over in Laindon at Nursery Gardens, residents have been badgering Basildon Council for years over conditions on the estate and more often than not, are treated with utter contempt. When a resident had issues with a waste pipe from the property above his flooding his home, constant nagging failed to secure a proper, professional decontamination and he had to do the best he could himself. Issues such as repairing broken fences take an inordinate amount of nagging before the council gets of their arses to do anything about them. When residents take matters into their own hand to try and improve matters such as putting up warning signs about speeding in an area where kids are playing, the council gets stroppy and demands the removal of the signs. They don’t seem to care about the risk of a kid being hit by a speeding car but the prospect of a resident produced sign ‘defacing’ the estate is something they are not prepared to tolerate FFS!

We could go on for ever with story after story of situations where Basildon Council have refused to listen to the concerns of their residents and when they do, all too often, the response is one of utter contempt. In the 21st century, is it such an imposition on a local authority that their tenants want decent, safe and secure housing? Simply asking the council for this gets you branded as a nuisance. Enough is enough – the council need to learn some humility, listen to the concerns of their residents, treat them with respect and above all, act on what they hear so people get decent, safe and secure housing. Any local authority that fails in this duty is simply not fit for purpose…

The deliberate neglect of Brooke House

Brooke House is the iconic looking tower block right in the middle of Basildon town centre. While it may look iconic from the outside (and from a distance), when you get inside, it’s a different, considerably grimmer story altogether as you can see from the images above…

Phil Turner, the Tory leader of Basildon Council, has come up with some grandiose schemes for Brooke House, none of which take any account of the wishes of the residents currently living in the block. One such scheme was converting the building into a hotel! When ‘consultations’ were held about the future of the town centre, the residents of Brooke House were not included despite them living right in the middle of the area to be ‘transformed’.

While the powers that be attempt to formulate a plan for the town centre, Brooke House continues to suffer from a policy of deliberate neglect. The images above from public areas of the block show missing ceiling tiles, rusting hand rails and blocked up rubbish chutes to name just a few of the indignities residents have to endure.

While the long term future of Brooke House is being decided, Basildon Council appear to be totally uninterested in spending any money on maintenance of the block. The council are giving the impression that they regard the current residents of the block as a nuisance they wish would go away.

This is part of Basildon Council’s plan to gentrify the area with the aim of turning it into a Tory voting commuter town. They hate the idea that the iconic Brooke House is inhabited by social housing tenants instead of young professionals. It would seem that the policy of deliberate neglect is aimed at driving the social tenants out so they can pull in a developer to ‘transform’ the block.

All of this shows the twisted priorities of Basildon Council who seem to be more concerned about the image of the town centre and socially engineering and cleansing the area, than they are about the residents currently living in Brooke House. This is what we get in a political, economic and social system that views housing as an asset rather than the basic right it should be…