Interesting developments in Basildon

On the evening of Tuesday 13th March, the Infrastructure, Growth and Development Committee of Basildon Council was due to meet at the Towngate Theatre to discuss the borough’s local plan and potentially approve the plan so it could be presented to the full council on March 22nd. Normally, council committee meetings will only attract a scattering of those willing to spend an evening listening to councillors and officers talking about what may seem to be quite arcane issues. That was not the case on Tuesday 13th March when queues stretched around the Towngate ahead of the meeting with the venue reaching its 200 capacity leaving 350 people standing outside. See here for the full story in the Echo: Vital meeting on Basildon’s housing plan postponed as 350 left out in the cold

Suffice to say the meeting was adjourned and has been rescheduled for the 19th March in what the council think will be a larger venue. Is this surge of interest in the future development of Basildon a positive development? An initial analysis suggests that the answer is yes…and no… Yes because any indication that people care about the future of the town they live in and want a say in how that’s planned is a healthy sign they’re not prepared to leave matters to councillors and council officers any longer and want a genuine say. Yes because Basildon Council got a shock on Tuesday 13th March as they did not expect such a high level of interest in their deliberations and were totally overwhelmed by what happened. Hopefully, this may cause some of them to reflect on how they have failed to fully engage residents in the process and that they need to completely rethink how they go about this. Although to be honest, given the way local governance is structured at the moment, we’re not going to be holding our breath waiting for this to happen…

While more homes are needed, people are rightly asking questions as to who they are for? From what we’ve seen of the plans so far, what has been planned will make scant impact on the waiting list for social housing on Basildon. A waiting list that has been rigged so that the numbers on it have been substantially reduced. Most of what is planned is private housing, a fair chunk of which is being pitched towards those working in London but have been forced to look further afield to buy somewhere as a result of the skewed property market in the capital. Understandably there are concerns about provision of the necessary infrastructure needed to support an increased population. We’re talking about roads, public transport provision, schools, doctors, dentists…the list goes on. It always seems to be the case that the housing gets built first and the infrastructure always struggles to catch up afterwards. While many people recognise there is a housing crisis that needs to be resolved, they’re not at all convinced that local authorities and government have the answers to it.

While we broadly welcome the display of people power that manifested itself at the Towngate on Tuesday March 13th there is a potential downside to this… Namely the NIMBY element who refuse to look at the bigger picture which includes the distortion of the property market in London as a result of the global super rich parking their ill gotten gains in block after block of empty apartments to be flipped for a profit while ordinary Londoners are forced out of the capital. A NIMBY element that so long as developments are banished from their areas, have no qualms about them taking place elsewhere. The talk of a larger number of people from Billericay coming down to the rescheduled meeting on March 19th suggests that the NIMBY element is mobilising to secure their interests without any regard for the bigger picture. We’ll be keeping a close eye on this situation and doing what we can to influence it so it is a genuine display of people power as opposed to a smaller group of NIMBYs.

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Coming soon…

Below is the housing flyer we’re planning to distribute with our friends from Basildon & Southend Housing Action on selected estates in Basildon in a bid to de-bunk some of the myths and rumours about the housing situation that are circulating and to explain in plain language what’s actually going on. We’re experimenting with short sharp flyers instead of our usual papers to see if they’re more effective in getting the message across…

A housing reading list

From speculation about new housing association homes at the Bata Fields development in East Tilbury going to people from outside of Thurrock, through rumours that some homes on the St. Clere’s development in Stanford-le-Hope are being brought by London councils to re-house people decanted as a result of ‘re-generation’ (a.k.a. social cleansing) to verifiable stories of people re-housed out here from the capital being victimised by resentful locals, there’s a lot of misunderstandings about the housing situation that need clearing up. Below is a list of pretty much everything we’ve written or re-blogged about the housing crisis…

A lot of this reading list focuses on what’s happening in London with the wholesale re-generation of housing estates that leads to social cleansing as residents are turfed out and re-housed many miles away, all too often out of the capital altogether. The point we want to make is that what happens in London with housing has a direct impact out here along the estuary. Which is why we ask people concerned about the housing situation here in Essex to take a step back, look at the bigger picture and show their solidarity with the housing struggles across London that are being fought by residents facing re-location as their estates are effectively destroyed in the name of ‘re-generation’.

One of the problems we face out here are the divide and rule merchants who don’t want people to see the bigger picture and through rumours and lies, create the kind of situation where anger is focused on the people moved out here who are the victims of what’s going on in London rather than the corrupt councils and developers who are the root cause of the problem in the capital. We’re not prepared to tolerate these divide and rule merchants with their nefarious, reactionary agendas in any way shape or form…

Clusterfuck! Labour’s Shameless Council Estate Rip-off (re-blog from ASH)https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/06/07/clusterfuck-labours-shameless-council-estate-rip-off/
10 Myths about London’s Housing Crisis (re-blog from ASH)https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/05/30/10-myths-about-londons-housing-crisis/
No More Fake News! This is reality (re-blog from Focus E15)https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/05/19/no-more-fake-news-this-is-reality/
A reminder of why we support housing struggles in Londonhttps://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/04/13/a-reminder-of-why-we-support-housing-struggles-in-london/
Screwed up priorities…https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/03/28/screwed-up-priorities/
Why I am a Focus E15 campaigner (re-blog from Focus E15)https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/03/25/why-i-am-a-focus-e15-campaigner/
The housing domino effect…https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/03/07/the-housing-domino-effect/
Is this the start of the gentrification of Tilbury?https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/02/22/is-this-the-start-of-the-gentrification-of-tilbury/

Screwed up priorities…

Back in February, two homeless people pleaded with Basildon Council for help when temperatures were plummeting down to zero. What was the response of the council? They gave the two homeless people one way rail tickets to Harlow via London so they could be accommodated for one night only at the Oasis Hotel which has been used as temporary housing since 2012. See here for the full story in the Echo: Homeless stranded 30 miles away after council gives them one-way train ticket to emergency accommodationhttp://www.echo-news.co.uk/news/15183290.Homeless_stranded_30_miles_away_after_council_gives_them_one_way_train_ticket_to_emergency_accommodation/ The two homeless people were effectively dumped in Harlow, a town they didn’t know with no support network. Fortunately, they both managed to make their way back to Basildon…

In our view, a local authority has to be judged by the way they treat their most vulnerable residents. Leaving two homeless people effectively stranded in a strange town thirty miles away is barbaric – there’s no other way to describe it. This incident shows in crystal clear clarity how twisted the priorities of Basildon Council are. A civilised society would ensure that vulnerable people are treated with dignity and respect, not swept out of the way in an offhand, callous manner. A truly civilised society would ensure that no one is homeless in the first place…

The Tory leader of Basildon Council, Cllr. Phil Turner, bangs on about how Basildon is changing and makes no secret of his desire to transform the place into a Tory voting commuter town. There’s a lot of building going on in Basildon ranging from the estate of executive homes going up at Dry Street to a rash of apartment developments aimed at commuters around the town centre. It’s pretty clear the kind of demographic that Turner and his mates want in the town – tragically, it’s also clear that they have no time for the homeless and vulnerable.

With all the construction that’s going on in Basildon, you would have thought that building a few complexes of sheltered housing staffed with people who can offer professional support to vulnerable people wouldn’t be too much of a stretch for the council. In addition, build genuinely affordable social housing units so that once these vulnerable people have got their lives back together, they can move onto a more independent way of living. It’s not asking a lot is it?

Tragically as things stand at the moment there’s no chance of this happening – the Basildon Council Mafia have made it pretty clear who they do and don’t want in the town. They have no time for anyone who for whatever reason is not contributing to the bottom line. ‘Hard working’ commuters are welcome – anyone who for whatever reason has fallen on hard times and is vulnerable is most definitely not welcome and will be treated accordingly. This is the start of the slippery slope to a very dark and disturbing place…