Another community clean up for Vange on Saturday 17th February

Following on from the community clean upon the ¾ estate in Vange on December 2nd: Doing it for ourselves on the ¾ estate in Vangehttps://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/12/02/doing-it-for-ourselves-on-the-%c2%be-estate-in-vange/ the Vange Hill Community Group (VHCG) and Basildon & Southend Housing Action (BASHA) have called another one for Saturday 17th February.

VHCG and BASHA are wondering if Basildon Council get wind of this clean up, whether they’ll put in extra effort on cleaning the estate of uncollected rubbish bags like they did before the last one back in December:) Fine – that leaves VHCH and BASHA more time to concentrate on the trimming and gardening side of things which will help with building a sense of pride in the neighbourhood…

As before, BASHA are facilitating this community clean up. The overall aim is to empower people on the ¾ estate to take an active role in making their estate a better place to live. Part of that is the physical work necessary to tidy the place up and put in some planting that will brighten things up come the spring and summer.

Obviously VHCG and BASHA are not going to be doing the whole of the ¾ estate. They’re working on two areas where they’ve already established a foothold with the aim of eventually linking these up to establish a clean and green corridor. The hope is that this will inspire residents in other parts of the estate to start working on their areas, facilitated by VHCG and BASHA if needed.

Basically, it’s all about empowering residents to take an active interest in managing their estates as part of a more fundamental project aimed at bringing power down to the grassroots where it belongs…

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The fightback starts now

Just under a month ago, we undertook a distribution of a Basildon & Southend Housing Action (BASHA) flyer on the ¾ estate in Vange on the southern fringes of Basildon – this was our write up of what we found: Where the new town dream has died…https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/07/06/where-the-new-town-dream-has-died/ Since that low point, there have been a number of encouraging developments: Positive developments in Vangehttps://theestuaryalternative.wordpress.com/2017/07/16/positive-developments-in-vange/

On the evening of Wednesday 2nd August, along with our comrades from BASHA, we met up with representatives from the Vange Hill Community Group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/180311358699122/ – and two of the ward councillors for a walk around the estate to get a fuller picture of what the issues were and start to work out an action strategy to deal with them.

One of the problems on the ¾ estate is tenure… A lot of houses were brought by their tenants when the right to buy came in. Many of these properties have since been brought up by buy to let landlords…some of who are total scumbags. Anecdotal evidence suggests that tenancies on a fair number of the buy to let homes are on short leases. Many of these are ‘houses of multiple occupation’ that are seriously overcrowded. It feels that the sense of community that used to be found on the estate disappeared long ago as the number of people moving in and out on short term leases increased. Instead of neighbourliness and solidarity, there’s fear, suspicion and a collapse of morale…

Then there’s the neglect by Basildon Council, Circle Housing and Swan Housing – all have some responsibility for various parts of the estate but none seem to want to talk or co-operate with each other! There are issues with rubbish collection which have been going on for years and show no sign of ever being resolved. There are broken kerbs and potholes everywhere. As for the walkways and steps, apart from the fact that they appear to be going back to nature as the grass and weeds take over, there are numerous uneven and broken paving slabs that mean you need to keep your eye on where you’re walking to avoid tripping over…

Despite the teeming rain, the walkabout was a positive experience. Vange Hill Community Group are passionate about turning round the fortunes of the estate and members have already started clean ups in the immediate vicinity of their homes. We spent a long time talking to them about how we can support and facilitate what they’re doing and getting the outline of an action plan in place.

One aim is to lead by example… This will be when a small group of neighbours get together to clear up rubbish, strim out unwanted weeds, clear unsafe steps of leaves and weeds and where appropriate, set up a community flower bed. As well as making a physical difference, the process of doing this will start to rebuild the community solidarity and pride that the ¾ estate desperately needs. If this can start to happen at a few points on the estate and can be sustained, then it will hopefully set an example that others will want to emulate it so that the ‘reclaimed’ bits of the estate physically link up with each other.

However, as you can see from the images taken on the walkabout, we and Vange Hill Community Group are under no illusions about the scale of the task…it’s a good job we like a challenge!


A ‘house of multiple occupation’ with a front garden turned into a rubbish tip


Electricity and flood water are not a good mix!


One of the neglected paths and open areas on the estate


One of many flights of steps that appear to be getting left to go back to nature, making them hazardous for pedestrian use


Looks like someone’s had a clear out…

The destruction of community…

Epidemics of flytipping in neighbourhoods are an outward manifestation that all is far from well in the community. This report in the Echo about flytipping in the Westborough ward in Southend is one example of this: Road becomes infested with RATS after rubbish dumpedhttp://www.echo-news.co.uk/news/15258270.Road_becomes_infested_with_RATS_after_rubbish_dumped/ In the Echo report there’s a quote from the chair of the Westborough Community Association which speaks volumes – here it is: “There just isn’t a community in Westborough and we feel like we’re wasting our breath. People should be taking pride in their streets and helping to keep them clean.” Before we go any further, we’d like to make a plea to the Westborough Community Association to not give into despair and give up but to keep on plugging away because it’s grassroots groups like this that are holding the line in these troubled times.

We’ve seen this situation repeated across the area we cover. On the ¾ estate in Vange where we used to work with Basildon & Southend Housing Action (BASHA) on community clean ups, flytipping was rife as was confusion from certain residents about when to put their rubbish bags out for collection! When we were doing door to door distribution of the Stirrer paper in Grays at the weekend, it seemed that every back alley we looked up had piles of dumped furniture and carpets festering away.

We sympathise with the calls for people to show more civic pride and take more care of their community. In the atomised society we live in, it’s all to easy for some people to just care about themselves and not bother about what goes on beyond the front door. Our comrades at BASHA have on numerous occasions expressed their frustration with the minority of residents who don’t seem to care what happens in their neighbourhood and who refuse to take responsibility for anti-social actions such as flytipping. It’s something we’ve previously acknowledged on this blog: Show some pride and have some respect for your neighbours!https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/04/26/show-some-pride-and-have-some-respect-for-your-neighbours/ However, while we acknowledge that calls for people to take more pride in their neighbourhoods and make an active effort to keep them clean have a role to play, they are only scratching at the surface of the problem…

The problem being the growing number of buy-to-let landlords who have a rogue element in their midst. In every neighbourhood we’ve seen that’s blighted by flytipping and anti-social behaviour, the common denominator is the presence of a significant minority of private landlords who don’t give a shit plus those who seem to specialise in short term lets. If a street has a significant number of properties available for private rent, it can lead to a significant churn in the local demographic with people coming and going and as a consequence, not putting down roots or becoming an active part of the community. Not that living somewhere on a short term let is any excuse to behave like a scumbag and flytip because it’s not! Although, in a fair few cases, it’s the rogue element of private landlords who are doing the flytipping…

This is what you get when housing is regarded as a financial asset rather than the essential roof over your head which is the starting point for you to take an active role in your community. A situation that’s exacerbated by an increasingly atomised society as people have no choice but to move hundreds of miles simply to find work. Then there are those who have been given no choice when it comes to being socially cleansed from London: The housing domino effect…https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/03/07/the-housing-domino-effect/ To put it bluntly, things won’t change until there is movement towards replacing a dysfunctional political, economic and social system that among sins too numerous to mention, sees housing merely as a financial asset with one that’s more equitable, just and sustainable…