The Fight to retain my Home in the Country
The following is an article written by my late father in 1988. I found this when going through his papers. It clearly shows why he felt that the way Basildon New town was created by the Corporation was the cause of a bad taste in mouths of many old residents of our community.
In his own words.
This is the true story of the development of Basildon as seen through the eyes of the ordinary man in the street as distinct from the SilverPlated version promoted by the Central Government Quango and its Lick-Spitllers.
Any independent and responsible person putting on a play portraying the development of Basildon would choose this unbiased view against the biased promotions of the Vested Interests.
The normal traditional slow development of Basildon, in effect, started before the nineteen hundreds when the railway came to the area. Get Rich Quick developers destroyed that balanced slow growth pattern in the nineteen twenties by persuading the farmers (who were going through a bad patch) they could sell their land for development and become rich overnight.
I pause for a moment to say such as this was happening in other parts of Essex at the time which have continued their slow pattern of growth to this day.
Central Government take-over of the Basildon, Vange, Pitsea , Laindon , Langdon Hills and Dunton Hills neighbourhoods brought about a situation which virtually smashed these neighbourhoods into adulthood denying them the right and privilege of growing up in a natural balanced manner which history proves creates a stable community. The present day problems in Basildon New Town proves my point.
I now use Dunton Hills Housing Estate Lower Dunton Road as example of other such areas bashed into forced growth by Central Government. Any who are gardeners will know forced growth produces week plants.
The farmer’s fields laid out as a housing estate by Town and Country Estates with Thurrock Council approval as recorded on their Chief Engineers drawing of the time. A few water stand pipes and unmade roads being the only amenity. The plot sizes were in the main twenty by one hundred and eighty. Hospitality promotions were held in London to sell off these “Clean Fresh Country Home Plots” to the (filthy air bronchitis prone) suffering people of London. The buyers they were seeking were those in permanent employment railway workers and the like. The wages of such people being less than two pounds a week, which left little for frittering. The promise of relief breathing fresh air instead of highly polluted air as promoted by the developers tempted many to scrape their pennies together and get a country home of their dreams. Having bought the land plot they were then faced with (what was to them) the colossal taste of scraping together the cash to purchase the materials to build their dream home in the country fresh air. Some were defeated by this (to them) massive problem others picked up pieces where they could and brought them down on their bikes others purchased materials from the ‘get rich quick’ merchants who sprung up almost like a gold rush scene. The fortunate ones had these materials delivered to site others carried them on their backs over the unmade roads. The soil in the area is peculiar in that in the summer a Sherman tank would not make a dent but when wet in the winter it becomes almost fluid. I heard stories that when people and horses sunk into the mud a hat was put over the place they sank.
Being that they were in the main get up and go cockneys they took all this hardship in good spirit and persevered until the war came. Many made their rather amateur built or part built country homes their permanent residence to escape Hitler’s bombs. They did not however escape that hazard entirely suffering jettisoned bombs, which decimated one family except the father who was sitting on the privy at the bottom of the garden at the time and the daughter who was out courting. They also had a visit from a land mine causing more devastation and death. This devastation failed to quench the spirit of these get up and go cockneys for when the lane to the estate Lower Dunton Road was crowded for days with the D-day lads their tanks lorries and other equipment out came the tea pots and their meagre tea rations to give lads a welcome cuppa.
These intrepid people then suffered the cruellest blow of all. The big wigs of Billericay (the bureaucracy centre at the time) approached Central Government with the objective of handing over the problems in Basildon, which were brought about by their failure to administrate the area in the proper manner. Basildon New Town Development Corporation was the result, the Government of the day gave B.D.C. almost total power, it was said this was necessary to prevent delays by bureaucracy also vested interests. This was a laugh in itself in that Central Government envisaged a twenty-five year programme of development and the B.D.C., by using their brief managed to keep themselves in power for nearly forty years.
The Government of the day very soon regretted giving the total power charter because B.D.C. used that power to bring MAYHEM to the existing residents who had invested their all to secure a home in the country. Very little however could be done because the lawyer architects of the total power charter had done job to perfection and subsequent efforts by later Governments to wind up B.D.C. failed because the brief was to complete Basildon New Town, It is understood attempts were made to extend West New Town Boundary at Lower Dunton Road across two Kilometres of open farm land to the A128 trunk Road putting four square kilometres of cheap land into greedy coffers of the B.D.C.
Mr C. B. was the driving force behind the B.D.C. and although he told me and no doubt others, he intended to stay on until the New Town was complete he was retired at 65 (as I told him he would be). The effect of C.B’s rule took a little time to wear off but wear off it did and Central Government chopped the B……. tree down replacing it with the very much-controlled C.N.T. to tidy up in the most profitable way they could.
The coming of B.D.C. spelt doom to Dunton Hills Housing estate development because Thurrock the local authority for the estate had power to collect rates which they had levied since inception (doing nothing in return) they had no other powers. Further development on the estate effectively stopped from the take over date.
There was soon a furore from other areas caused by owner occupiers being put under stress by Compulsory purchase of their owner occupied homes and only being paid a small fraction of replacement price for same. There was the tragic case of the man who committed suicide because he was unable to bear the stress any longer there were the three elderly sisters of Pipps Hill bashed out of their home of lifetime because they refused to move until they were paid replacement price. It was claimed their home was urgently required for recreation use. It was in fact used for a short time as a Zoo and laid mori bund since. Indications are their land will now be used for some commer cial or industrial use. The District Valuer’s price was £13,500. The true value of their land can be adjudged by the fact of a piece of similar character in Enfield less than half the size sold for £420,000 ref. Agents Gazette.
These together with many other such heart rendering cases put fear into the souls of the Dunton Hills Housing Estate owner occupiers many of whom took advantage of the right to serve notice on the B.D.C. to buy their homes/land. They accepted a very small sum and a rented B.D.C flat or house elsewhere in Basildon quickly paying back the small sum they received in rent, others were so upset they took the loss and moved away , both groups not knowing their legal right to replacement cost in compensation for their Compulsory purchased homes/land.
There was also operating at that time a so named residents protection society who working with local agents wrongly advised owner occupiers to sell the major part of their land plot to the B.D.C. for which they received a small sum and devalued the remainder of their property. The local agents were only paid by the B.D.C. to transfer their clients’ property to B.D.C. not to negotiate for replacement price, as was the owner’s legal right. The secretary of the Residents Society now has a street named after him in Basildon New Town, presumably in reward for his service to B.D.C
I moved to the Basildon area in 1952 purchasing the property ‘Mon-Ami’ Lower Dunton Road comprising fifteen, one house plots of the Dunton Hills Housing Estate, a thousand square fee brick built bungalow together with other buildings.
Little did I know I came to witness the ‘worst scandal of the age; the robbery of a strata of the populace!’ Not by a foreign power, not by the Mafia, not by armed thugs; but by the very Government that the strata of the populace elected to promote and protect their interests. It is interesting to note however that the present Government with their, property owning stance have allowed this scandal to continue into their third term of office despite many attempts to persuade them otherwise. I received a letter recently from an offshoot of the Department of the Environment informing me it was still illegal for them to depart from the system I now illustrate, that the architects of that system were very clever in that, on paper, it appeared very fair but in practice proved the scandal of the age. It is significant that this system does not result in large organisations being paid less than the replacement value for their property when Compulsory purchased because they have the resources to fight for their rights.
The system works like this for the proletariat also the elderly. The authority decides to acquire an area for redevelopment and sets about persuading, or pressurising property owners to sell at the District Valuer’s price, the level of which can be judged by the fact of one determined woman finishing up with compensation ten times that quoted by the District Valuer. It is significant that owners are advised to employ profession agents to sell their property. The owners not knowing that such are only paid by the authority to transfer the owners property and not to negotiate for replacement price which must be arranged at the expense of owners and not recoverable from the C.P.O authority. There is another catch in this selling by agreement in that there is no automatic right to disturbance removal and other costs.
Compulsory purchase is then applied to the unwilling or wise owners; this confers on them the right to removal and other expenses also to a public Inquiry. The value of a public Inquiry can be judged by the fact of the redevelopment of Basildon controversial South West area going ahead before that Public Inquiry was held which, in theory should have decided if that redevelopment should even start, which labels that part of the system a going through the actions, thing.
The vast majority accept all this twaddle as the law and accepted District Valuers price possibly upped a bit to give some air of negotiation. The true replacement compensation for their property escaped them. Once again there is apparent fairness brought in by the right to refer to the Lands Tribunal a claimed independent body funded by “the same officialdom responsible for the Compulsory purchase system. This is however a very expensive procedure which requires recourses far beyond the capacity of the average owner-occupier particularly the elderly and is therefore seldom used by them. All this must be set against advice on Compulsory Purchase issued by the D.O.E. to the effect that full replacement compensation must be paid also case law established by Law Lord Denning, as regards New Towns, keeping classification value of land required plus increase in value which would have obtained if the New Town had not taken over, producing the same if not better case for the owner occupier whose property is compulsory purchased.
Resulting from the use of the system in Basildon I estimate, all land has been acquired at £1,000 per acre. Published figures values that same land at ONE MILLION POUNDS per acre after development showing profit of £999,000 per acre less development costs. NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT!!!
When I came to Lower Dunton in I952 there was only meagre supply of gas and water. The water supply was upgraded as was the gas, electricity also main sewers installed. There is a tale about electricity and sewers worth recording.
I tried to get electricity installed only to find Mr C. B. of the Corporation using reluctance of E.E.B. to install underground cables to stop me. It then occurred to me that ample water, gas, electricity also main sewers would upgrade the value of Dunton Hills Housing Estate and upset his plans to acquire it all on the cheap for the B.D.C. The manager of the E.E.B. was obviously on my side and anxious to take advantage of my campaign. Mr B and I brought electricity to Lower Dunton by the simple expedient of locating the distribution poles on the West side of Lower Dunton Road which was just fifteen feet outside the New Town boundary, and accordingly outside his jurisdiction. There is a separate tale which could be told of this beating of the B.D.C. mighty invader by an ordinary man in the street who new the ropes a little.
The main sewers were another score. B.D.C. in collaboration with Basildon Council persuaded the Boundary commission to transfer Dunton Hills Housing Estate, which was within the New Town boundary to Basildon from Thurrock. The Bulphan foul sewer scheme was however well advanced by then and was in fact installed in my home many months, after Basildon took over, with the co-operation of Thurrock Council, there being no love lost between Basildon and Thurrock at the time.
Some time after B.D.C. wrote to me telling me my land was required for tree planting and to negotiate with them to sell for this purpose, which of course confirmed that their intention was to acquire Dunton Hills Housing Estate at agricultural price. The next move was a plan showing a new road running across the roof of my dwelling Mon-Ami, perhaps they thought trees did not frighten me, but lorries running across my roof might. This is confirmed by the fact of there being open farmland opposite on which the electricity poles had already been sited.
Four related stories come to mind. The first being the owner of the ‘Haven’ now used as a museum (which I am sure many people look upon as a monument to the suffering anguish and loss caused to them by the Gods of Whitehall) served notice on B.D.C. to buy. It is interesting to note that a many times amount than was paid to the family was spent on bringing the ‘Haven’ to the supposed condition it was when they lived in it, which brings it to the price which should have been paid to them.
Members of the family were involved in a film to promote and glorify the work of the C.N.T. in Lower Dunton, but a were prevented from even hinting at the loss and anguish caused to them, others taking part were also instructed what to say revealing a censorship such as which only operates in wartime in this country. They did not invite me despite my being the oldest long term remaining resident.
The second is the case of ‘Lebanan’ owned by a middle aged couple of religious mind who when refused planning permission by Basildon Council served notice on B.D.C. to buy and were paid same minimal sum as others but after they moved away. B.D.C. demolished ‘Lebanan’ and built a large new bungalow with large pig breeding buildings on the site.
The third case of nearby ‘Brunswick’ comes next the elderly widow being harassed and persuaded to sell to B.D.C. for a small sum by offer of a flat in Langdon Hills. That lady phoned me the to tell me the building housing her flat is now falling down like many other building in the New Town. ‘Brunswick’ was refurbished by B.D.C and made into a dog-breeding establishment as it is today, with buildings for that purpose.
The fourth and final of these examples is ‘Joyway’. The elderly widow living on her own applied and also appealed to D.O.E. for permission to build a small extension to her tiny bungalow to house her nephew e who was in difficulty she was refused and sold her bungalow to B.D.C. under promise of rented bungalow in Laindon for which she has paid more than the sum she received for her own bungalow in rent. ‘Joyway’ was then sold by B.D.C. to one of their employees who has demolished it and build a more than four times capacity dwelling on the site with full planning permission.
These four example cases of many such others clearly show an authority hell bent on profiting at expense of the original residents and using their lack of worldliness to do it. Whitehall should hang their heads in shame.
I am sorry to say that when my father died I was unable to continue the fight and had to concede and move my mother out as the house had deteriorated and would have required a considerable sum to carry out the repairs. This would have been in addition to having to buy the property back from the Corporation at the then current property prices before I would be allow to carry out the repairs.