1. Ian Abley, 'Pickles Plans a Pogrom', 13 April 2011, audacity, posted here
2. Ian Abley, 'Pickles Plans a Pogrom', 23 April 2011, New Geography, reposted here
3. Dennis Hardy and Colin Ward, Arcadia for All - The Legacy of a Makeshift Landscape, Nottingham, Five Leaves, 2004, p 4, first published by Mansell, 1984
4. Ibid, p 194
5. Ian Abley, 'Britain can't so easily stop the Dependency Culture', 31 October 2010, posted here
6. Dennis Hardy and Colin Ward, Arcadia for All - The Legacy of a Makeshift Landscape, Nottingham, Five Leaves, 2004, p 55, first published by Mansell, 1984
7. Candy Sheridan, quoted by Patrick Barkham, 'Dale Farm Travellers eviction: the battle of Basildon', 25 March 2011, The Guardian
8. Grattan Puxon, open letter to Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, 'UN calls for halt to UK Gypsy Evictions', 22 July 2010, Lolo Diklo
9. Dennis Hardy and Colin Ward, Arcadia for All - The Legacy of a Makeshift Landscape, Nottingham, Five Leaves, 2004, p 302, first published by Mansell, 1984
021 Crays Hill
Number 021 in the series of 250 New Towns is the projection of Crays Hill, Essex, in Landranger 178. That idea came from the dispute over the old scrapyard at Dale Farm. On Google Earth look for the rectangle of family housing built in poor quality Green Belt land at Dale Farm, Oak Lane, Crays Hill, Billericay, Essex, CM11 2YJ. The Dale Farm Gypsies and Travellers have shown how people can meet their own housing needs, if only the Local Authority will give them planning permission. However, after years giving permission to the Dale Farm residents to live on their 5 hectares of land, Basildon Council refused applications from 2000. After a decade of Local Authority opposition, and after the Coalition was elected in 2010, Eric Pickles as Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government decided to demolish, destroy, and devastate half of Dale Farm. (1)
Joel Kotkin of New Geography reposted the story in full. (2) Pogróm is a word with Yiddish origin, and is a Russian word meaning "to wreak havoc, to demolish violently, to destroy, or to devastate a town". When the Coalition presides over the lowest rate of building of new housing since just after the First World War, why is Pickles as the Minister responsible so fixated on clearing the family homes of 1000 Gypsies and Travellers? After all, Basildon as one of the 33 New Towns built after the Second World War was founded in the plotlands in redundant farmland between Pitsea, Vange, Dunton, and Laindon. As Dennis Hardy and Colin Ward appreciate in Arcadia for All, the plotlands in this part of Essex extended up to Billericay and Wickford, with Crays Hill in between.
'Most of the plotlands were developed in the first half of the twentieth century, some before 1914 but the majority in the inter-war period. Though many have survived since then, their continuing formation came to an abrupt end with the introduction of effective planning legislation in 1947. With localised exceptions they never really constituted a large proportion of early twentieth century development. Yet they were quite widely dispersed and attracted a degree of public concern that far exceeded what one might have expected in terms of their limited acreage. Few parts of the country escaped at the least isolated examples of shacks and rough conversions though larger concentrations of plotland development were more restricted.' (3)
Basildon meant formalising one of the larger concentrations of plotland development into a post-war New Town. Some plotland homes and streets were incorporated with new utilities and transport infrastructure, while other plots, such as at Dunton, were turned into Nature Reserves.
M - Text Date
J - Text Date
021 Crays Hill, Essex, showing the Ordnance Survey 1:50,000 Landranger Map key
Basildon Council covers Basildon, Billericay and Wickford. While Billericay and Wickford are on the commuter rail line to London Liverpool Street, Basildon is on the commuter rail line to London Fenchurch Street.
The railway links with London have always been pivotal, and the railway companies obviously needed passengers. 'The London, Tilbury and Southend railway from Fenchurch Street had been opened in the 1850s, and in the 1880s the company had obtained authority to run a shorter, direct line to Southend, avoiding Tilburyand passing through Laindon and Pitsea. At the same time the Great Eastern Railway Company constructed a branch line from its East Anglian service from Liverpool Street, to reach Southend via Rayleigh. The rival companies undercut each other's fares, and in both cases these were about half the national average per mile.' (4) Commuters are essential to the two railway operators today, having contracted with the government for their operating franchise.
More than the obvious interest of railways in a volume of regular passengers, Hardy and Ward appreciated the interests of the struggling farmland owners in both railway ownership and sales of plots for development. 'Landowners along the new railway routes were often shareholders or board members of the railway companies, and could expect to profit not only from their diminishing asset of farmland recovering some value as building land, but also from the expectation of increasing railway traffic that any development would bring.' (4) Arable farming in this part of Essex was evidently unprofitable from the late 1870s, when wheat production had been industrialised elsewhere, and particularly in Canada. The plotlands were a better use of the land.
Plotland homes were actively marketed to "City Gentlemen" in the 1890s because they were a short, affordable train journey to London's financial centre. The plotlands were not only taken up by tradesmen. Today, the City Traders who represent an important constituency in Basildon Council, are obviously interested to protect the high value of their well situated homes, many of which have replaced the more meagre bungalows, chalets, and shacks of lower paid plotlanders from earlier generations. More than immediate self interest, however, the City knows the importance of the £1.2 trillion residential mortgage market, secured in the £4.0 trillion British housing market. Whether the City understands that the housing market is protected by the post-1947 planning system, which nationally prevents plotland development on redundant farmland in the more mobile twenty-first century, is debateable. (5)
What is far more certain is that the prospect of popular plotlands are seen today as a threat to the countryside. In the 1930s the plotlanders acting on their self-interests collectively represented "the danger of proletarianism". (6) Class conflicts are less immediately prosecuted today, and concerns about the environment are shared by City Traders and trades men or women alike. The vast and growing Green Belt is popularly guarded to protect the environment from the sprawl of others.
Basildon, Billericay and Wickford, with Crays Hill in between, are firmly surrounded by London's Green Belt. That does not mean the landscape is beautiful countryside, though some undoubtedly is, but rather that development is even more restricted in the Green Belt than elsewhere.
Although Dale Farm is an old scrapyard, with heavy concrete roads and hardstandings dating from that industrial use, it is in the Green Belt. It is not a Green Field site, but a Brown Field site, and while Basildon Council gave half of it planning approval before 2000, since then the mood has been to resist new building on the concrete hardstanding as Green Belt.
The London Green Belt cuts across a vast swathe of South West Essex and the North East suburban Local Authorities of Greater London. Most detached housing within the Green Belt is highly valued, and the several pre-1947 plotland bungalows along Oak Road are no exception.
021 Crays Hill, Essex, showing the Ordnance Survey 1:50,000 Landranger Map key, and England's Green Belt
'We're not wanted anywhere', says Candy Sheridan. 'We're not wanted in the countryside. We're not wanted in the town'. She points out that 'Councillors don't want to see us', but '... we are part of the countryside and we have been for 600 years. We have more right to be there than they do'. (7) She is an Irish Traveller, and Vice Chair of the Gypsy Council 2010, founded in 1966, busy trying to help Gypsies and Travellers through the planning system. She has spent years trying to negotiate ways through Britain's shifting planning policies and the changing moods of Local Authorities who administer them for central government and their departments. This is no easy task, and the shift to "Localism" is only set to give greater voice to those who oppose Gypsies and Travellers.
Most urgently, the Dale Farm Gypsies and Travellers need support in defending themselves from the destructive and socially divisive pogrom that Eric Pickles is planning. These family homes and caravan pitches should not be demolished by Basildon Council. Photographer Susan Craig-Greene has maintained a record of the long run attempt by the Dale Farm residents to apply for planning permission to live on their own land, as they were encouraged to do by the same Local Authority that now plans to evict half of them. Half have planning approval, and half have been refused. See the background posted on http://advocacynet.org/page/dalefarm
Grattan Puxon represents the Dale Farm Residents Association. The website on http://dalefarm.wordpress.com is helping Dale Farm supporters to co-ordinate the defence of the residents from Basildon Council's Bailiffs, Constant & Co., even while negotiations continue.
In an open letter Puxon told Pickles that '... forced eviction is always an ugly action but when its being taken against ninety families of one community and those families belong to a ethnic minority, then there must be cause for concern, alarm and shame'. (8) But Pickles says he is acting for the environment and the community of Basildon. He is acting on his own prejudices from within a Coalition sustained in power by Liberal Democrats.
To receive a text alert when the eviction operation is close, send your mobile number to Grattan Puxon at firstname.lastname@example.org You will be made most welcome if you want to actively stop the forced eviction.
Richard Sheridan, leader of the Dale Farm residents, knows that if Basildon Council had continued to approve building on Dale Farm after 2000, as they had done from the mid 1990s when Gypsies and Travellers were encouraged to buy their own land, then there would be hope. It was the Local Authority that changed it's mind half way through the building of Dale Farm. The residents were then trapped with a plot of land that they would never have bought unless Basildon Council, following national planning guidance, had encouraged them to develop as a place to call home. All the Dale Farm residents wanted was to be allowed to work to house themselves, but the Councillors in Basildon turned on them, using the planning law.
Of course, from the wider point of view of general housing provision, the whole area of former plotlands around Crays Hill might be thought of again as a location for a larger settlement, incorporating Dale Farm. That could be done as plotlands, as Hardy and Ward suggested, only with greater confidence in an industrial democracy needing new housing.
'It is arguable that a society whose industrial base is slipping away, which cannot provide employment for its population, and where house-building, public or private, has reached its lowest ebb for decades, might well seek to encourage rather than deter those who choose to turn their own labour into capital, in housing themselves.' (9)
A home is not really "capital" in the sense of being capable of productive investment. A home is an asset, but it wears out as it is lived in. The difficulty is always finding sufficient finance for a home to be built initially, to be repaid from income. The lack of access to finance means having to make do with the discomfort of living in a tent, or a shed, while trying to save enough to build out of income. City traders and tradesmen or women with higher household incomes will be able to access mortgage finance better than most in Britain. However there are rudimentary ways through these difficulties, as the Gypsies and Travellers in places like Dale Farm show. Yet the planning system, having nationally prevented plotland development in 1947, chooses to offer selective encouragement to marginal building at different times as policies change. The planning system can also withdraw those policy concessions, turning to discourage such efforts, and leaving people uncertain about building. People will not build when their limited and hard earned finances may be potentially lost through forced demolition by a fickle Local Planning Authority.
As the club progresses you will find an index to the 250 New Town locations here:
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