Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Wickford Action Group rubbish Laindon Centre Regeneration

Wickford Town Centre doesn’t need ‘something doing to brighten it up’ which is the view of the 'Wickford Action Group' in their recent letter in our local paper; it needs proper regeneration to halt its decline. There is certainly a serious problem if you talk to the traders on the High Street, including the one who asked me if it was worth renewing the lease and staying in business because things have got so bad. There are also local examples of town centres going badly wrong and you only have to go to Grays or Laindon Town Centres and then consider what having half of the local shops boarded up does to a community. Basildon Council is not waiting for Wickford to reach a terminal state, which is why there is a Master Plan and why we are progressing with delivery. Another complaint is about town centre housing; this is government policy, which means that a local Council cannot turn down legal planning applications for residences in the Town Centre. We also don’t want to build on the surrounding Green belt that is Wickford’s vital green lung and gives the town so much of its character as a town instead of a suburb of Basildon. What is most disappointing is that the Wickford Action Group is now trying to rubbish regeneration efforts elsewhere in Basildon District, particularly in Laindon where regeneration of the Town Centre is desperately needed. They go so far as to claim that Councillors are misleading the people of Laindon in the consultation process there. In fact the consultation that has been going on is by the private owners of the Laindon Centre and nothing to do with the Council. So, who is misleading who?

5 comments:

John Rushton said...

Steve,

I'd like to correct you on your letter in the Echo in response to mine. My letter was not from the Wickford Action Group, it was a private comment as you can see from the signature. Yes, I am a member of the WAG, but I also have my own views, just as you write your blog - I'm sure your rants about Simon Heffer etc. are not Basildon Council's official policy? Well, same goes for me.

I realise that this particular exhibition was hosted by the developer, but on the Basildon Renaissance website the news article dated 12th September 2007 states:
"Come and have your say on the regeneration plans and priorities for the future of the District!'
That is the message from Basildon Renaissance and the Council as they launch a series of exhibitions in the District's five town centres, starting at the Laindon Centre this weekend".
"For five weekends through September and October, the public will be able to view the draft Basildon District Regeneration Framework and a summary explaining the future plans for the District. They will also be able to fill in a questionnaire that will be entered into a prize draw for a share of £250 of High Street shopping vouchers".


The reason why I was minded to write my letter to the paper was that I wanted to point out to the Laindon residents what happened to us in Wickford when we had our 'consultation'. This is clearly and concisely explained in the Cabinet meeting minutes of 16th February 2006, Item 6, (pages 25 to 31), just 7 pages - an amazing document.
- the public response (from the 'consultation') was a resistance to multi-storey development and too much residential
- despite that, the council's recommendation was for 'relatively high rise buildings' and '5 to 6 storeys in height would be reasonable'
- the council then, incredibly, amended the plan we had been consulted on by increasing the total flats from 490 to 598
- they then approved the plan.

I can only repeat that I (and the WAG group), do want to see Wickford regenerated, and building houses and flats in the town centre has to be part of this, but the current situation with all of the 4, 5 and 6 story blocks already approved, is just TOO MUCH, and TOO HIGH. It isn't what the public wanted, and it isn't what they responded to in the consultations.

So that is why I sent out a word of warning to the Laindon people.

Regards,
John Rushton
Wickford

Steve Horgan said...

The Regeneration Framework is quite distinct from any consultation regarding the Laindon Centre, and does not deal with the specifics of any of our Regeneration schemes, rather the overall approach.

For Laindon the decline of the town centre is not a threat, it is a grim reality and while there is a debate on the specifics of regeneration no-one argues that is desperately needed.

If you were not speaking for the Wickford Action Group then why did your missive include the URL for their website? Your letter displayed no insight or understanding for the problems that are faced by the community in Laindon and was a generalised and misleading attack on the integrity of Councillors. That does not help the debate either in Laindon or Wickford.

Anonymous said...

Surely with community empowerment being such a huge issue at the moment, their input should be highly valid. I am currently writing an article for Shelter on the mismanagement of regeneration schemes across the country that residents have found wholly unsatisfactory as their input has been ignored. Councillors must remember that is the residents that have to live in these places and if the regeneration does suit them they are the ones that suffer.
It is no good holding meetings in order to feel necessities in planning application, so that a few boxes can be ticked on community involvement. These should be real meeting where residents views are taken on board and acted upon. Lets have no more of this patronising attitude of treating residents like children that will run along and play once theyv'e had a little sweet.
This is there area and they deserve, not just a say, but a do, in what happens to there town
Brook Hewett
Roof magazine(Shelter)

Steve Horgan said...

Community input is highly valid. However, in this case it was not input from the community of Laindon, rather it was input from a pressure group in Wickford, which is miles away. Of course Councillors should listen to local people and when it comes to regeneration in Laindon we think that Laindon views matter rather more than people from another town.

Resetting the Tone said...

Hi…….

My name is Tony Morris and I will be trekking across the Himalayas in April 09. I live in Wickford, Essex and I wondered if you would like to help? It is a charity event (You don’t think I’d do this for fun do you) to raise money for the MS society.

I would also like to organise a few local event here in Wickford and would obviously appreciate your help in getting the message out to people. The events I would like to organise are ones that involve exercise, so 5 mile walk and or 3 mile run. Sponsored football tournaments, crazy golf matches or even a sponsor rubbish collection.

I can be contacted on
01268 763 809
07789 728 583
Tony.Morris@spceurope.com or reply to this email

Many thanks in advance and I hope to hear from you soon.

Kind Regards

Tony