Redrow need to learn some manners!

The controversial development by Redrow Homes on former open fields at Dry Street of an estate of executive homes that will do nothing to solve the housing crisis in Basildon continues to gather controversy. They were working yesterday (Saturday 9th June) and as you can see from the screen grab from the GAG2011 Facebook group, they failed to stop noisy works at 1pm and carried on working right through the St. Luke’s Hospice Fete taking place almost next door. Which in our view and those of many right thinking people, is just plain bad manners.

As there were a good few hundred people in attendance, if they weren’t aware of the contemptuous attitude Redrow Homes have towards the people of Basildon, they sure as heck are now. Forget about all of the glossy PR bullshit Redrow and their ilk come out with when they plonk one of their developments on a community – yesterday (and most likely, numerous other occasions) showed them up for what they are which is greedy profiteers motivated solely by the figure on the bottom line.


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? 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 –….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…

Highways England adopting ‘shock doctrine’ tactics

Highways England aren’t wasting any time in pushing through their Option C (Route 3) plans for the Lower Thames Crossing. Less than 24 hours after the announcement was made about the route on April 13th, residents in areas to be impacted by the approach roads to the crossing have received letters from Highways England leaving them in little doubt that their homes are under threat: New Thames Crossing: Thurrock residents receive “Compulsory Purchase Order” letters

It seems that Highways England want to overwhelm residents with the bad news from the outset, leaving them in no doubt that they’ll have no option but to move, undermining their morale and any chance of them putting up serious opposition to their plans. This is why we’ve used the phrase ‘shock doctrine’ tactics in the title of this post because that’s exactly what it is – a deliberate strategy to demoralise residents affected by their proposals and snuff out any embers of resistance before they flare up into something Highways England will struggle to deal with.

As we mentioned in our initial response to the announcement from Highways England: Lower Thames Crossing decision – let battle commence! attempts by green groups in the area using lobbying tactics and legal action to halt unwanted developments have failed. The question that has to be raised is this – are residents directly threatened with the loss of their homes to make way for the Lower Thames Crossing going to politely continue with the tactic of lobbying and attempting to negotiate with Highways England or will some of them adopt more militant methods to stop it?

As we stated in our previous post, we respect the sincerity and passion of groups such as the Thames Crossing Action Group and GAG2011 in opposing unwanted and unsustainable developments. However, we have to question what seems to be their continuing faith in lobbying and legal action to stop an organisation as ruthless as Highways England from literally steamrolling their proposals through regardless of the human and environmental cost.

Has the time come for the kind of strategy and tactics that will lob a spanner into the works with physical obstruction of the preparation and construction process for the Lower Thames Crossing? It’s not for us to dictate to residents facing the loss of their homes what methods they should adopt to resist the threat from Highways England. All we want to do is suggest that other strategies and tactics could be brought into play…

Lower Thames Crossing decision – let battle commence!

The location and the routes to and from the Lower Thames Crossing have finally been revealed – this is how it was covered in the Thurrock Gazette: REVEALED: Lower Thames Crossing route from Thurrock to Kent is finally confirmed… and it has not gone down well

The local MPs and many councillors have already had their say about the decision. Rather than focus on the positioning and point scoring the politicians are engaging in, we’d prefer to outline our objections to the crossing and then start a discussion on the strategy and tactics needed to halt this development.

Reasons to object to the Lower Thames Crossing are numerous… One is the increased levels of air pollution more roads and traffic coming through Thurrock will bring. This story is a few years old but we suspect that the problem has only worsened since this was published: Data shows Thurrock is one of the UK’s pollution hotspots Presumably, the Tory government sees illness and deaths caused by air pollution as the necessary price to pay for economic ‘growth’ – in other words, so long as the bottom line is healthy, the rest of us are expendable.

Then there’s the noise… You can be right down on the marshes in Stanford-le-Hope and still be able to hear the noise of traffic from the A13. The crossing means more traffic and more noise – 24/7… If you live in East Tilbury and Linford, whatever route is chosen, you’ll be subjected to the noise. Anyone who’ll be moving into the new housing development that’s now going up alongside the railway station at East Tilbury, particularly if they’re at the western end of it, will find that the new approach road is too close for comfort.

More noise, pollution and people feeling they’re being boxed in by massive new roads with no escape is only going to add to stress levels. The simple things that people do to relax and get away from the pressures of modern life such as sitting in or pottering around in the garden, or taking a walk in the nearby countryside will be wrecked by constant traffic noise and poor air quality. There’s only so much people can take of feeling that they’re being hemmed in by new development and that their concerns and fears about the consequences of this are being dismissed before they start to get angry.

There’s research showing that increasing road capacity generates more traffic and the early benefits of new roads are lost as traffic volumes increase: New roads create new traffic Not only that, new roads attract development that generate considerable volumes of traffic. The two obvious examples of that are the Lakeside and Bluewater shopping malls which wouldn’t have been built if it hadn’t been for the M25. Bear in mind the the M25 was originally conceived as a way of diverting traffic around London but because of the large number of road junctions linking to the existing road network, it became a magnet for traffic generating development.

The Lower Thames Crossing proposals which are based on forecasts of increasing traffic levels assume that there will always be the oil available to fuel vehicles. As a considerable proportion of the oil consumed in the UK comes from increasingly volatile regions such as the Middle East, assuming an uninterrupted flow of oil is naïve. We’re old enough to remember the energy crisis of 1973 when the Yom Kippur and the subsequent OPEC embargo on oil exports led to chaos in the UK: It would appear that the lessons of that crisis have not been absorbed by a younger generation of politicians and planners.

We may or may not have reached ‘peak oil’: – the debate is still ongoing on this one. The point is that oil is a finite resource and some day, it’s going to run out. The problem is that no government appears to have the foresight to plan for a world where oil production has peaked and where we have to do some radically new thinking on how to organise our towns, cities, agriculture, economy and society to deal with it. No, all we get is the same short term thinking that sees more and more traffic on the roads and simply builds more infrastructure to carry it rather than ask how traffic can be reduced and our society and economy put onto a more sustainable footing.

In the face of the decision, this is what the Thames Crossing Action Group had to say: Thames Crossing Action Group: “We will not give up” This group has put in a lot of graft in voicing their opposition. Another group that put in a considerable amount of time, effort and money to oppose the unwanted and unsustainable development of executive style homes at Dry Street to the south of Basildon is GAG2011 – Sadly their efforts were not successful and the development at Dry Street has commenced…

We’re not in any way casting aspersions on either the Thames Crossing Action Group or GAG2011. However, this question has to be asked – has it come to the point where direct action aimed at physically stopping the road and crossing from being built has to be considered? That could well be something along the lines of the infamous protest against the Newbury bypass in the 1990s: Twenty years after the protests, what is the legacy of the Newbury bypass? with the obvious caveats that lessons from their experience need to be taken on board. For obvious security reasons, we don’t want to publicly comment on what could happen in terms of direct action as we don’t fancy being branded as ‘domestic terrorists’! Suffice to say, there ‘s a lot to discuss in terms of strategy and tactics…

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?

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, 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.