Basildon's Green Lung is under attack again

In the News once Again: the Meadows North of Dry Street (Otherwise known as the Dry Street Meadows)

Ken Porter - 5th Sept. 2011
Ken Porter - 5th Sept. 2011
Ken Porter - 5th Sept. 2011
Ken Porter - 5th Sept. 2011

For the uninitiated, these are the meadows which extend westwards from Basildon Hospital and Basildon College, reaching as far as the bridleway, which constitutes the eastern boundary of the EWT’s Langdon Nature Reserve. They lie to the north of Dry Street – hence the name – but are not really visible from that road, given the development already in existence, and the frontage of Longwood Riding Stables, which are currently an integral part of the site.

However, don’t be fooled by the seeming invisibility of the meadows in question. They can be viewed if one looks eastwards from the bridleway, where the vista towards Hawkesbury Bush and the Big Hill is such that one could be forgiven for thinking that one is many miles from any serious urban development. That is a prospect which is beautiful enough – but take my word for it, the view looking westwards across those same meadows, towards the Langdon Hills ridge, as seen from behind the hospital, is quite one of the most sublimely beautiful prospects to be had for several miles around Basildon. It is all the more delightful given that it is so very close to the town, yet it is unfamiliar to the vast majority of folk for the simple reason that there is no public access to that spot.

Indeed, there is a case for somehow incorporating that view into the overall network of public paths in the neighbourhood of the town: an infinitely more appropriate course of action than the one which has lately been resuscitated – the idea of building a large number of homes and commercial enterprises thereupon.

This is a rerun, in a modified form, of the proposal which met such fierce opposition a mere five to six years ago, when the plan was to build 1300 homes on the meadows, with access to come primarily from the hospital roundabout (already a scene of hideous congestion for too much of the day) and somewhat from Dry Street. On that occasion, the plan was seen off, thanks to the concerted opposition.

The land is publically-owned. It came into public ownership in the days of the Basildon Development Corporation, and subsequently transferred to the New Towns Commission when the BDC was wound up. Since then it has resided under the authority of successive government quangos – English Partnerships (as of the last big proposal to develop it, six years ago), and currently the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA).

The latest scheme was announced earlier this year, under a glorious smokescreen. The emphasis was not upon the number of homes and commercial establishments which are being contemplated, but rather upon a seemingly exciting proposal to build a new college in Basildon, close to the town centre. The message conveyed is that somehow the existing college buildings are not fit for purpose, despite having been built as part of the new town, and that it would be desirable to relocate the college onto a new and rather more cramped site in the town centre – and this has been presented as a profound improvement in the educational provision for the town.

Implicitly, the considerable amount of land which the college currently occupies would thus be released, to be added to an as yet undefined amount of land on the Dry Street Meadows. Thus combined, the lands would be developed for commercial and housing purposes, accessed via that same congested hospital roundabout.

The Dry Street Meadows are not located within the Green Belt – despite the various utterances by political figures in the past, who have indicated the desirability of placing it within that belt. However, most of the meadows are located within a County Wildlife Site (Ba24 Dry Street Pastures). They constitute long-established meadows, of the kind that have disappeared to such an alarming extent in the years since World War II: over 97% of the traditional meadows that existed after that war have been lost. They support a wide range of wildlife, some of it now scarce, to the degree of being of Red Data Book and BAP status. Under their current management as pastures and hay meadows they continue to thrive, and moreover, as indicated above, they constitute a rare scenic asset to the town and the region.

It is the Society’s contention that they form part of the precious Langdon Hills ridge, which should be visualised as a feature of regional landscape and ecological significance, too valuable to be eroded piecemeal in the name of urban development. Indeed, the vision of the town’s Development Corporation was an inspired one, inasmuch as the meadows in question were allocated to a purpose-built equestrian centre which provides a valuable recreational facility for the town, while simultaneously forming a subtle and effective interface between town and country. Moreover, they border onto the Langdon Nature Reserve – one of the most substantial and important reserves in the entire county.  This reserve in turn is an enormous asset to both Basildon and the other neighbouring communities. As traditional pastures, the meadows complement the nature reserve which they border onto; in a manner that would be impossible were they to disappear under a major housing estate.

For the reasons given above, the Basildon Natural History Society is very sceptical about the latest proposal, and opposed to the violation of the County Wildlife Site.

If you have any views on this development may I suggest that you add a comment to this page. If you require any further information may I suggest that you go to Green Action Group web site:

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  • The above is interesting because the article talks about 1300 homes in the original plan whereas the correspondence states that there will be 725. Has anyone seen a plan of the proposals and if there is one, why doesn’t the editor put it with this article before everyone gets too hot under the collar.

    I am just hoping the development, if it takes place at all, will be sited far from the Dry Street area and much nearer to the Hospital zone where it would not impact as badly. I’m going to research this a bit more before giving any opinion. 

    By Richard Haines (21/04/2014)
  • Richard.  The website for the Green Action Group has been updated, see above:  Hundreds of people in the area have already been feeling hot under the collar for several years.  The project depends on the relocation of Basildon Market to in front of St Martin’s Church (at the moment a quiet and park-like area amongst some trees).  The latest plan for this was turned down by Basildon Council several weeks ago.  It could be a few months or a year before revised plans are submitted.  If this goes ahead, the Basildon College would be relocated to where the market now stands.  That would free up space for the new proposed housing estate.

    This would also mean the removal of Longwood Riding stables to some other site (yet to be found).   Again there is enormous opposition to this as it is very well used (our daughter rides there and take her children riding too).  It’s in an ideal position with very good established bridleways.

    I was a secretary at Basildon Hospital until I retired in 2011 and believe me they do not want or need a housing estate nearby.  The traffic congestion coming along Nethermayne to pass under the narrow Echo Bridge in the evenings was horrendous.  Some of the staff who parked on the top storey of the hospital car park,  couldn’t get out for literally hours.  One of my colleagues gave up and left her car there all night, walked to the town where her partner picked her up.  Over 700 more houses would just compound the situation.   The Hospital is struggling to cope already and the schools are full.  Apparently there is a junior school included in the plan but no senior  feeder school.  Many children in that area are now having to travel by bus to Brentwood, Billericay and Shenfield (including our granddaughter from next September).  More housing will only make the situation worse.  

    As can be seen on the Green Action Group’s website, the building is planned to take over several meadows which will destroy some of the loveliest parts of Langdon Hills and wildlife habitats. There is obviously enormous opposition to all this.   

    In fact the Green Action Group have raised funds to enable a Barrister to be employed to take the case to Court to hopefully prevent the whole thing from happening.  The next few months are going to be crucial.  There’s little point in the Laindon Archive Site publishing any plans right now until something more definite is known.

    By Nina Humphrey(née Burton) (21/04/2014)
  • Nina, thank you for pointing out the link to the site, it’s all on there as you say and thank you for the detailed reply, much appreciated. It seems from first glance (I haven’t had time to study everything) that in the west, the development will be bounded by protected woodland and it also has existing boundaries on all its other sides. Also it looks as though the authorities already own the land and are developing on it to form an ongoing infill of residential areas and a school.

    Something for me to study to the nth degree but clearly the development could not proceed any further than the physical boundaries shown on the plans. Unfortunately we’ve seen all this before throughout the development of Basildon New Town and its surroundings.

    By Richard Haines (21/04/2014)
  • Sickening!  Just seen in this in the Echo ‘Basildon Council approves controversial plans for 725 homes at Dry Street’.

    By Lisa Horner (20/04/2014)
  • Its heartbreaking and I bet none of these ‘officials’ who are up for building at Dry Street live in the area – possibly enjoying somewhere in the north Essex countryside – we all really know what it’s about – M O N E Y – it’s got to be – as Gloria and Brian mention, there are so many places that have been torn down and left unfinished; so why not use these?

    Do hope the same people don’t run out of money to finish Pitsea – what would happen with the piles of earth presently adorning the area?

    By Andrea (20/04/2014)
  • Totally agree with you Ken when you say “If this development goes ahead it will be vandalism at its highest level”.

    By Lisa Horner (19/04/2014)
  • I do not live in the area any more Brian but still watch news items and get information from friends and family. The area still remains dear to my heart so I still have views these are a few.

    1. I think its time local government had a reshuffle (I am not at all political just recognise a bad job when I see one).
    2. Where are all the jobs and school places for these new tenants going to come from.
    3. What about all the empty shops and houses these need to have money spent on them before more money is spent on new development.
    4. Soon we will not be able to go out because all the roads will be filled with cars and all the open spaces filled with houses with not enough room for people, maybe this is a bit far fetched or is it !!!!!
    5.  Wildlife, what life???????
    By Gloria Sewell (16/02/2012)
  • Thank you for such a lovely article Ken, and even though I live 100 miles away now, I most sincerely hope the proposed buildings do NOT get built there, as it would as you say “It will be vandalism at its highest level. When I can, I visit the area, but have NO wish to see this beautiful sight disappear under yet more concrete. WHY is there such a need to keep building more homes, when Laindon Shopping Centre (Joke of one more like) needs sorting out first?

    By Brian Baylis (15/02/2012)
  • Although I know the area fairly well, I decided to have another look around. I went up on Monday the 5th September, it was a little breezy but a bright day. I spent over and hour walking round taking in the beautiful sights, sights across Basildon out towards the Thames back to the country park. If this development goes a head it will be vandalism at its hightest level.

    By Ken Porter (06/09/2011)

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