The letter to the Echo reproduced above concerns the ongoing re-development of the Laindon Centre – a shopping precinct that opened in 1969 and has been plagued by problems pretty much ever since. It’s instructive to read this piece from the Laindon & District Community Archive – Laindon Shopping Centre – The Decline – which not only discusses the decline of the centre but also offers a history of what the High Road was like before Basildon New Town was built. Spoiler alert – it was thriving! What is clear from this piece is that back in the late 1960s, the Laindon Centre was imposed upon the community with no consultation as part of the grand plan for the new town.
Well, when it comes to taking into consideration the views of the community, it would appear that Swan, the developers responsible for replacing the Laindon Centre, haven’t learned the lessons of history. When the re-development of the centre was finally given the go ahead, from what we can gather, residents were generally in favour of the scheme. That was with the implied proviso that during the course of the re-development, Swan would make every effort to keep as many shops as possible open. Shops that people in the community rely upon, particularly those who don’t drive. It would appear from the letter reproduced above that Swan have issued eviction notices to the shops which could be taken as breaching their commitment to keeping as many of them as possible open. Understandably, there are now concerns about the continuity of the Health Centre.
Even though there was a consultation about the re-development of the Laindon Centre and promises were made to make every effort to keep as many shops open as possible, at the end of the day, Swan appear to be ignoring the wishes of residents and their own promises! As we’ve written more times than we care to remember, the planning system we have isn’t fit for the purpose of providing residents with what they want and deserve – it exists to serve the needs of the developers and that’s it. A planning system that serves the needs of the developers and rides roughshod over the concerns and aspirations of residents is symptomatic of a system of local governance that is not fit for purpose. Both are top down systems imposed upon residents. Looking at the letter reproduced above, that’s something many residents instinctively understand. At some point, that instinctive understanding has to move towards a movement that will bring about a truly participatory system where decisions about the way our communities are run and how they will grow and develop into the future are made right at the grassroots.
In the meantime we would like to offer this piece of advice to any residents dealing with the ‘consultation’ processes that accompany major developments – don’t believe the weasel words of the developers!