A new dawn?

Basildon Council have announced a series of community clean up roadshows in a number of wards across the borough: Community Clean-Up Roadshows. At these events, there will be information on dealing with these issues:

– Top recycling tips including recycling rules.
– Information about recyclable materials – with a focus on plastics.
– Help with setting up community recycling programmes.
– Information about flytipping and the correct ways to dispose of rubbish.

This all sounds good but, hang on a minute – isn’t educating residents on these issues what the Vange Hill Community Group (VHCG) and Basildon & Housing Action (BASHA) have already been doing their level best to do? Both of these groups have been banging their respective heads against the wall to get a hearing from Basildon Council and to get some degree of support and co-operation for what they do on the ground. In return, all too often they’ve been treated with disdain and rudeness and any concessions that have been squeezed out of the council have come after unnecessarily long battles.

After all VHCG and BASHA have been through in trying to educate residents on the estates while battling against the council, the powers that be announce a series of roadshows to educate residents on rubbish collection protocol and recycling. You know what – VHCG and BASHA are both fully entitled to take the announcement of these roadshows as a resounding victory for all of the pressure they’ve had to put on the council! Let’s hope that from this point, it will be onwards and upwards in getting support and co-operation from Basildon Council for what residents are already doing for themselves on the ground.


Out of sight, out of mind…

That has up until now, generally been the attitude of Thurrock Council when it comes to dealing with the growing problem of flytipping down alleyways across the borough. The attitude was that if it can’t be seen from the road, it’s not a problem, even though the lives of residents have been blighted by the alleyways behind their houses being blocked by flytipped trash. Well, according to this piece on Your Thurrock, the council may be having a change of mind about this: Thurrock Council pledge to undertake fly-tipping reviewhttp://www.yourthurrock.com/2017/07/17/thurrock-council-pledge-undertake-fly-tipping-review/ Mind you, it’s only a review so let’s not get too excited that we might be moving towards a solution on this…

On the subject of solutions, we’re reproducing in full a comment left after the Your Thurrock piece which makes some very useful practical suggestions but also expresses the poster’s utter frustration in dealing with the council:
1. Fire gates either end with keys distributed to all households. 2. Organising residents who wish to maintain the alleyways. 3. Up north most alleyways are now small communal gardens made by the residents. 4. Clean, organised alleyways deter dumping as tippers know they’re being watched. It also deters residents from dumping out their back gate. 5. Making the resident responsible for their allotted area of alleyway also helps. 6. Lighting would be good too as this seems to deter the drug users. Some councils have employed solar lighting to deter these and fly tippers. 7. Portable CCTV can be employed, again tippers never know if the cameras are live or not. Most people who live with alleyways behind their properties are sick of all the dumping and fly tipping. We live on one that when we moved in in 2000 was a lovely little alley, well kept and maintained. We have motorcycles that we store in the back of the garden and it was easy to get them out. Now it’s impossible to even walk down these alleys. We have contacted the council on numerous occasions telling of the needles from drug use in the alley, but they said they sent someone to a look, bit of a lie, as I was around when the inspector viewed it and he stood at the top of the alley then got in his car and drove off. I was told he even picked up some discarded needles. Oh no he didn’t. We, the neighbours have removed the needles ourselves. We even had a cat come home with one stuck in his paw. The trouble with this council is the attitude of “If it cannot be seen from the road, we do nothing”. That was exactly the words used when we complained over two years ago. As for our councillors, I have mailed all of them and had no reply. One was too busy being Mayor (Cathy Kent as mentioned in this article), the other (her husband) running for MP, and the third I don’t even know who he is. Waste of space if you ask me. Well, there you go. You want comments, now you hear it from the streets affected. I bet I’m not the only one that’s so angry with the “Clean up the Town and forget the outskirts” mentality of the council. Oh, and by the way, Mrs Kent. we now have spilled oil, welding gas canister, 3 bed frames plus mattresses, a couple of fridges, a washing machine and a sofa. There will be a TV next week, we’ll have all we need to set up home right there in the back alley. Coming round for tea? No, I thought not.

Looking at the tenure of properties in areas affected by flytipping may also be an idea. From when we’ve been doing door-to-door deliveries of the Stirrer paper, it seems that there are some areas with a lot of buy to let properties with a fair few being rented out on short term leases. Add in an element of landlords who cut corners and get away with the bare minimum they’re obliged to do with some blatantly flouting the rules, then you may well have an explanation for where at least some of the flytipping is coming from. Whether Thurrock Council are prepared to spend time and resources chasing up rogue landlords is however, another matter.

As we’ve written before, a large number of buy to let properties in a neighbourhood is going to cause problems, particularly if a fair number of them are on short term leases: Where the new town dream has died…https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/07/06/where-the-new-town-dream-has-died/ With people constantly moving in and out, there’s no community spirit or sense of belonging which is why flytipping becomes a major issue because the flytippers sense that no one cares and that they can get away with it. It goes back to the long term project of trying to rebuild community solidarity and addressing issues of tenure to introduce an element of stability back into neighbourhoods affected by these issues. That however, is unlikely to happen this side of a major political, social and economic change…

One part of the problem…

Referring to the previous two posts about the state of the ¾ estate in Vange and our highlighting the large number of buy to lets being rented out on short term tenancies as being a contributory factor, this piece from Your Thurrock encapsulates the problem in a nutshell: Thurrock homeowner fined for dumping rubbish at front of househttp://www.yourthurrock.com/2017/07/06/thurrock-homeowner-fined-dumping-rubbish-front-house/

Granted, the story is about a property in Grays but it illustrates the attitudes of too many landlords to the neighbourhoods they operate in – basically, they don’t give a s**t! In a case like this where the landlord lives in London E17 miles away from the property concerned in Grays, it’s easy to not give a s**t as they don’t have to deal with pissed off locals. To scumbags like this, their portfolios of property are seen as a tidy income stream and nothing more than that. If that income can be maximised by cutting every corner they can get away with, they will do so. In the case of this particular landlord, he took the piss once too often and was hauled before the court.

Taking landlords like this to court is like trying to put a sticking plaster over a gaping wound. It’s a token gesture which may make a few landlords look at how they operate and decide to pull their socks up but it does nothing to address the underlying problems. Prosecuting cases like this is being seen to be doing something while conveniently ignoring the attitude that sees housing as an investment vehicle as opposed to the basic human right it should in a civilised society.

Whether it’s slum landlords like the one in this case or developers building block after block of apartments in formerly working class areas of London that end up as investment vehicles which remain empty as they’re ‘flipped’ on the market, the attitude that housing is an investment prevails. As long as that thinking remains unchallenged, we’ll keep on seeing slum landlords like this operate in our neighbourhoods while at the same time, more working class areas of the capital are demolished to make way for more sleek, sterile apartment blocks. To get housing seen as a basic human right is going to require fundamental political, economic and social change…it can’t come soon enough!

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…

Don’t dump on your fellow Travellers!

Different groups of Travellers have visited Muddies near St. Nicholas Lane in Laindon over the years – the site has been used as a stopping off point by them for some considerable time. Some have kept the area tidy and bagged up their rubbish ready for collection by Basildon Council before moving on – because of their regular use, they’ve generally treated the place with a bit of respect. Muddies is now no longer a community asset, it’s a building site. Basildon Council and developers Redrow have trashed a lovely natural space and children’s playground, for profit. Travellers can no longer use the space, nor can the local children.

A group of Travellers moved on to a field surrounded by trees across the road from Muddies, fly tipped loads of rubbish in the area and then moved on. This is a sad reflection on their lack of respect for a beautiful space and for themselves. It’s also a reflection of the problems caused by the hike in the cost of using legal tips and recycling which has lead to a rise in fly tipping. Now instead of having a proper public service for the control of rubbish we have privatised companies offering the cheapest service which is run as if the main aim was to leave rubbish lying around and limit the use of recycling centres and to make money partly by fining people who carry out cleaning work for their communities.

On housing estates, as we’ve written previously: 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/ it only takes a minority of dysfunctional households to drag a neighbourhood down. It’s the same with Travellers – it only takes a minority to tarnish the reputation of the whole community. A situation exacerbated by Basildon Council and the Echo newspaper demonising Gypsies and Travellers which encourages the racist few longing for an excuse to find a group of people to pick on and feel superior to.

Fly tipping is a rotten, antisocial thing to do. The rabid racists who jump on the bandwagon to make racist remarks on social media such as “bomb them” and “disgusting animals” are also guilty of spreading filth. Gypsies and Travellers are one of the few last groups not yet properly defended from racist abuse. Many deny them being an ethnic group at the same time as being happy to discriminate against all of them on the basis of the actions of a few.

When we condemn the rogue elements living in our estates for their actions, we do so on the basis that the majority of people treat their neighbourhood and each other with due respect. We’re not being censorious curtain twitchers when we do this – it’s because we recognise that these elements are bad for community morale and solidarity.

It’s with this in mind that we condemn the Travellers who turned up and decided to treat St. Nicholas Lane as their own personal rubbish tip with total disregard for residents in the area and their fellow Travellers who do treat the sites they visit with due respect. This group must have been aware of the grief that the Travelling community gets yet they took a course of action which will ensure that the hate and persecution are cranked up to an even higher level. Basically, whoever is responsible for this flytipping has stabbed their fellow Travellers in the back, and the non Traveller racists and haters make all of us non Travellers look bad. We all need to look after one another and care for the environment we live in and are dependent on.