The desecration continues…

These are some photographs sent in by one of our comrades from Basildon & Southend Housing Action (BASHA) showing the ‘progress’ Basildon Council have been making in desecrating St. Martin’s Square as they re-locate the town’s market there…




St. Martin’s Square used to be a pleasant, tree filled oasis where, when the weather was right, visitors to the town centre could take some time out from their busy schedule to sit and relax. Basildon Council in their offices on the other side of the square didn’t see it that way – all they saw was a space that in their eyes wasn’t bringing in any revenue. They have a narrow, meanly utilitarian mindset that puts a price on everything but fails to see any value in a space that offers people a chance to rest and re-charge their batteries.

In a changing retail climate with people spending less because they don’t have enough money or if they do, increasingly spending it online or at regional malls such as Lakeside or Bluewater, relying solely on retail is not going to create a balanced, attractive and viable town centre. That simple fact has escaped the myopic bean counters at Basildon Council who seem to think that if they make a few cosmetic changes to the town centre, the shoppers will come flooding back. They’re living in the past but if you try telling them that, they’ll arrogantly brush you aside because as a mere resident, your views don’t matter outside of election time…

We wrote about the complex planning chain which is leading to this desecration back in July: Falling apart…https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/07/21/falling-apart/ Well, Dry Street is being transformed from meadows to an executive housing estate which will do sod all to alleviate the (massively rigged and shrunken) waiting list for social housing in Basildon. As you can see from the photographs above, St. Martin’s Square is being covered with permanent structures whose rents could well be out of the reach of a lot of the traders currently operating in the existing market. We suspect that the new market is being pitched at a different kind of trader catering to a more affluent customer base. Well, good luck with that in a town that’s experiencing more poverty as pay levels stagnate and decline!

There’s another piece in this complex planning jigsaw…the re-location of the Basildon campus of South Essex College to the site of the existing market. Will it ever happen? Who knows… It is a well known fact that the Basildon campus is being run down with some departments such as motor mechanics being re-located all the way over to Rayleigh. We’ve heard anecdotal reports from staff at the Basildon Campus suggesting they’re being kept in the dark about their future and are feeling increasingly de-moralised as a result…

Despite all of this, the myopic bean counters at Basildon Council see all of this as ‘progress’. This is what you get with a system of local governance and a planning system that actively excludes resident participation in any decision making. This is why we say that the system we have is no longer fit for purpose and why radical change from the grassroots upwards is needed sooner rather than later…

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Have Highways England won?

On Monday 20th November, members of the Lower Thames Crossing Task Force (made up of Thurrock councillors), the Thames Crossing Action Group and representatives of Highways England met to discuss developments regarding the route the crossing will take through Thurrock. See here for the full story on the Thurrock Gazette: Further details on Lower Thames Crossing route unveiled in meetinghttp://www.thurrockgazette.co.uk/news/15673129.Further_details_on_Lower_Thames_Crossing_route_unveiled_in_meeting/

Just take a few moments to absorb this – the Thames Crossing Action Group, initially set up to oppose any route for the crossing, have been sitting in a meeting alongside representatives from Highways England discussing the finer details of the route. There’s no longer a debate about the need for the crossing in the context of moving towards a more sustainable future where we don’t have to rely on a mode of transport fuelled by a finite resource. There’s not even a discussion about whether improvements to the existing road infrastructure that would relieve congestion at the Dartford River Crossing could render the construction of a new crossing unnecessary. In short, there’s no meaningful opposition to the Lower Thames Crossing. Highways England have won because they are dictating the agenda.

That’s the way it’s always been when it comes to major transport infrastructure projects. The system is rigged so that any discussion about a proposal is around ‘alternative’ routes or when just one option is presented, making tweaks to it. The political and economic system we have and the planning system that underpins it will not allow any fundamental discussion about the future direction of society and the transport infrastructure that will support it. Those decisions have always been taken behind closed doors and until people wake up to the reality of whose interests the system really supports, they will continue to be taken behind closed doors.

As we’ve written before, most local amenity groups take the conventional route when it comes to opposing housing developments or major road / transport infrastructure projects. These groups have the best of intentions but sadly, they don’t understand that the system is rigged and at the very best, they may be permitted to suggest a few tweaks to a scheme but that will be it. The Green Action Group did their level best working within a rigged system to stop the a development of executive style homes (that will do jack shit to ease the housing waiting list in Basildon) on meadow land at Dry Street – the meadows have gone and the houses are going up. It’s the same with Thames Crossing Action Group – they’ve put in a phenomenal amount of work to state the case against the crossing but because they were working within a flawed, rigged system, they’ve been reduced to sitting in the same room as Highways England to discuss tweaks to the route.

Above are two examples of what happens when there’s no militant opposition and amenity groups opt to work within the system. In both cases, our environment and along with it, our health and peace of mind have been the losers. We would like to suggest that a change of strategy and tactics is needed as an urgent priority before any more damage is inflicted…

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…

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…