Laindon Shopping Centre - The Decline

We continue to await action on the promised regeneration

The following is the personal view of the writer who has seen Laindon change from a thriving, evolving community to a dormitory for London and the surrounding areas at the behest of officialdom without thought for, or consultation with, the community. It appears to me to be ironic that the development of Basildon was to alleviate the overcrowding in the slums of the East End and Basildon is now becoming the new East End. They appear not to have learnt form the past and are making all the same mistakes made by the developers who created the problems of the slums in London.   I would not be surprised to hear in the not to distant future reference to the London suburb of Southend if the present rate of development in the South East is not brought under control.

I have just read the article by Nigel Smith in the Basildon Recorder (Friday 27 July 2012) and I think it is time for the residents of our community to tell the story of how we have reached the current situation with a shopping centre that would not be out of place in the third world.  But before I proceed I would make it clear that I have nothing but admiration for the traders trying to provide a service to the community despite a landlord who has made it very clear that he would prefer to pull it down and replace it with residential accommodation as this would provide the profit without the liability of empty shops, when they are forced to close due to high overhead costs.

Laindon High Road in the 40s and 50s with over 150 shops, businesses, cinema and other community facilities formed the heart of a very enthusiastic community.  The shops had, like the community, been evolving from the the late 1880s, when the London Tilbury and Southend Railway arrived.  This evolution would have continued if Central Government had not decided that there was need for new towns to ease the problems of slum housing through out London, aggravated by the second world war.

The changes made to Laindon were made worse by the man appointed to head up the Basildon Development Corporation who’s stated aim was to eliminate Laindon. I don’t know why he felt that there was need to do this other than his concern that Laindon, as an established centre, would detract from the planned Basildon Town Centre.  They also tried to close Laindon Station but were thwarted by BR who would not pay for a new station that they deemed was not required, the area being served adequately by the existing stations at Pitsea and Laindon. 

I must admit that my recollections of Laindon High Road were that it was not a picturesque village high street, but you were able to purchase anything from a bespoke suit to a lb (pound weight) of nails and any other of the necessities you needed for everyday life. In addition there were numerous sports, entertainment, organisations and facilities to meet the needs and expectations of the community.

When the Development Corporation had finished spending our money on the destruction of Laindon we were supposed to be grateful for the new shopping centre. The centre was typical of what architects decided was required by the community, like many other unattractive and uninspiring centres created in the New Towns around the country.  Laindon Centre like too many of the Corporations developments over the years was conceived without consultation with the community they were to serve.

It was not long before it began like most of the ill conceived developments to become neglected and when the Chinese restaurant closed in the early years of the centre opening it was boarded up, and has remained so ever since, this was followed by many other units being left in a similar condition for many years.  The Clock House Office block had offices that were empty for years and I believe some were never let. The decline in the Laindon Centre set in very early in its life.  When the Corporation got rid of the liability they had created to a private management company, making further profit at the communities expense, its fate was sealed.

Then came the promises of improvements for Laindon as well as for Wickford and Pitsea, the difference being that Pitsea and Wickford still had a high street with multiple landlords and a community to put pressure on the Council to deliver on their promises. This is evidenced by the number of times we read in the local papers about Wickford and Pitsea  regeneration. Laindon has a single landlord and no where for the communities focus, that is why we only hear about regeneration when the local elections are imminent. Laindon is still waiting for any signs of progress and if the history of our Local Governments ability to influence the owners is anything to go by we will be waiting for many more years.

The Authorities seem to have been led by the latest bright ideas of the marketing organisations and permitted the development of out of town retail parks and shopping centres such as Lakeside and Bluewater. These are in general occupied by the large retail consortia and do not provide a wide range of services or the community atmosphere as was the norm in the local high street. The combination of competition from the big stores, and increasing rents and rates has made the task of the local trader to make a living impossible. The authorities need to realise that no shopping centre is immune from the strain imposed by their approval of out of Town shopping complexes and Basildon Town Centre is now also beginning to show the signs of decline, despite the Council spending considerable amounts of money to try and revive it.  Therefore if the closure of shops in our high street and towns is not halted the situation will continue to deteriorate, as when the landlord is not making adequate profit to keep up with repairs and improvements it will end up with an insult of a shopping centre such as Laindon with boarded up shops and a general derelict appearance.

I appreciate that the future of the Laindon Centre is in the hands of a private landlord, but it should not be beyond the capability of the Council to persuade the Development  Corporation, (name changed to English Partnership and now Homes and Communities Agency) to use their compulsory purchasing powers, so effectively used against the community in its creation, to repurchase the site. The cost could come from the profit they made and continue to make out of the people of Laindon. If it is left to the current owners who have made it very clear that they will only redevelop when they can maximise their profit. They have also indicated that they would prefer to reduce any long term liability by replacing the centre by a residential development, which once built and sold off would provide the profit without a liability.

The lack of action and deterioration of the centre has led to reduced trade and when this combined with increasing rents and rates the profitability of the traders is reduced and the services available then deteriorate further. The decreasing number of traders reduces the revenue of the landlord leading loss of interest in carrying out any repairs, which makes the situation worse and leads to a further fall in trade driving more and more of the traders from the centre. When an area is left in run down state local residents of the community tend to avoid the area.  In Laindon we have almost approached that point of no return.

The government is now realising that the loss of High Streets and communities seriously affects the wellbeing of the country and is starting to talk about trying to reverse the decline.  The situation will continue to deteriorate unless the Authorities and Landlords start to consult the community as to what they require in their shopping centres, rather than coming up with a scheme designed by Developers and Architects in isolation that require  PR consultants to tell us that it is what we need. Our Local Councillors, County Councillors and MPs need to take up the challenge of the community they are supposed to serve and start the regeneration without further delay. A good starting point would be to talk to the community and pay more attention on how they can assist the traders bring life back to the local communities rather than assisting their decline.

If Local Authorities do not start to take up the challenge it will be too late. The out of town shopping complexes that have put pressure on the local high street are now coming under threat from the increase in internet shopping and we could well see closures, this will affect the Councils Rate Revenues leaving them dependent on the Residential Rates. The worst outcome of the lack of action is that instead of being a country of shopkeepers we will become a country of warehousemen and delivery drivers working for foreign owned companies, like a large proportion of our manufacturing and infrastructure.

Laindon Shopping Centre needs to be replaced with a mixture of independent shops that will allow us to purchase fresh local produce, and other necessities from shopkeepers who have pride in the products they are selling and the service they provide. I may be a dreamer but this is one area where I believe that what we had originally, living in a thriving community, was far better than at present. The decline started with the destruction of Laindon High Road leaving us with the Laindon Centre but its inadequacies and lack of investment through out its life have lead to the current state of desolation. So lets start putting pressure on the Local Authorities to bring effective pressure on the Landlord to get something moving. The last forty two years of neglect and approaching twenty years of promises about our shopping centre is far too long.

So if the Local Councillors, County Councillors and MPs want the  support of the local residents they need to start delivering on their promises.  They also need to start asking the community that elect them, what is needed and stop providing what developers and planners think we need. Laindon requires a local shopping centre that meets the requirements and serves the ever growing community. The Shopping Centre is only one of the problems created by inadequate forethought and planning. The new high density housing developments are putting an unacceptable strain on the services needed to support them such as schools, health centres and the main infrastructure. The authorities need to start taking this seriously or the area will decline into a place where few wish to live.

I have had my say. What does the Community think needs to be done?


Comments about this page

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  • Having read this article and all the many comments it has roused, it occurs to me that a vital point has been overlooked and not considered. 

    From the time that Laindon, as a village, began being dismantled from the place most contributors on this site knew and loved, people themselves have changed dramatically. Subsequent generations have become less and less social or sociable. In years past, walking from one end of the High Road to the other, visiting and making purchases from all manner of different shops, could be a social event that most enjoyed and even looked forward to. Meeting friends, neighbours and relatives, stopping for a welcome cuppa and a chat, catching up on gossip, learning of local scandal etc etc.

    Supermarkets and out of town retail parks do not offer or provide this once popular happening. Children over the last couple of generations have become more insular, with fewer open spaces right on their doorsteps to play out safely while under the watchful eye of a parent. Electronic gadgetry has contributed big time to keeping them in the home, whereby they are losing, many have already lost, the ability to socialise with others. 

    The point I am trying to make here is that community does not exist in areas that it once did. There have been so many contributory factors toward this, i.e, the car, supermarket type shopping, eradication of social areas, village life, open spaces, electronic games. That’s without the fear and threatened danger of muggers, sexual predators and the suchlike. We live in an ever changing world and for people of our generation, most, or at least many, of the changes have not been for the better. This despite all the good intentions of those who devise and implement them.

    By Donald Joy (21/09/2015)
  • It certainly is an ever changing world and I agree not all the changes have been for the better.  But for every negative, there is a positive.  Vaccines have largely taken away the huge fear of death from childhood diseases.  People are enjoying longer lives due to better health care, nutrition and living conditions.  Central heating keeps us warm in what used to be freezing winters (literally with net curtains frozen to the windows in the mornings).   Muddy unmade roads and lack of basic amenities are now a thing of the past.

    Social and community life does still exist.  It’s just a bit different.  Rather than shopping trips along the village High Road, for many, social life revolves around their working lives.  The big divide between the genders has closed.  Girls can now play football etc, take up a career in engineering if they wish, whereas boys can do cookery and even take up nursing and become a midwife (there have been at least two male midwives at Basildon Hospital). Men take a more active part in family life.  Childcare and nappy changing is no longer known solely as ‘women’s work’.  Women can have careers of their own and some menfolk even become ‘house husbands’.

    We may not have as many wide open spaces as in years gone by, but we have some very good, well used, local parks and nature reserves.   Travel is far more accessible today.  Lots of children enjoy holidays abroad, something we could never have imagined in the early fifties.

    Life has always had a dark side.  A hundred years or so ago, life was pretty bleak for the less fortunate.  Children were exploited and abused and put to work in appalling conditions from the age of about 10 and the shadow of the workhouse always loomed.   Many died before they even reached that age.   One only has to read social history books and through the back papers of the last century to discover what happened to some children at the hands of ‘predators’.  That is not something solely restricted to recent times.  Apparently ‘mugging’ used to be rife and was the reason for the first Police Force being formed in 1829. 

    Every era brings its own problems.  Today we have a huge elderly population who need to be cared for which is stretching the country’s resources.  But all in all, we are fortunate compared with times gone by.  My grandchildren are growing up in this area.  They are happy kids with so much more available to them than we had.  They do use the computer for school work and for pleasure, but are also extremely active and love being outdoors, playing games, climbing trees and riding their bikes in the local park.   They don’t miss the amount of ‘freedom and open spaces’ that we had, because they never experienced it – they only know the world they have been born into.  I tell them about how things were and they listen, but they are children of today and thoroughly enjoying it.

    Each era has its own characteristics, some good, some not so good.   There were many changes before we were born, many changes during our lifetime and there will be many more after we are gone.  We are only put on this earth once, so it is up to us to ‘go with the flow’ and make the most of our lives while we can.

    The Laindon Shopping Centre changed hands yet again a few months back and is now in the hands of ‘Swan Housing’, whose plans for the area are still awaited.    

    By Nina Humphrey(née Burton) (21/09/2015)
  • Extremely well said, Nina!

    By Alan Davies (21/09/2015)
  • I completely concur with Alan Davies, well written Nina.

    You were correct in saying community does still exist, just not the way it used to be. Many people today don’t even know their neighbours, in a lot of cases they are less able to, because the design and layout of the estates they live in being a factor. It appears they have a small circle of friends and are unable or unwilling to expand that circle. The old Laindon, where just about everybody knew everyone else, closeness of community has in general disappeared. People are just not the social animals they once were. It also seems that each subsequent generation is becoming less so, by gathering up “friends”, they will likely never meet, on websites such as Facebook etc. 

    While, in trying to make my point, I may not express myself as well as I might, you have to acknowledge that in trying, I do achieve one thing. I do seem to inspire Nina to some really good writings? 

    By Donald Joy (21/09/2015)
  • I might be cynical but I note that the promises of improvements to the Laindon Centre always appear to be made when an election is due. They then disappear until the next election with all sorts of excuses as to why the Councils hands are tied. If they wanted to they could have made a positive move and compulsory purchased the complex. This would have done away with any excuse for not developing the site.

    By Ian Mott (19/02/2015)
  • The saga and decline of the Laindon “shopping” centre is appalling in itself and is especially depressing for me as our house, surgery and beautiful garden were demolished to make way for it!  Thank God for photographic records…and I still have the front door key to Daisybank!

    D Bolton…are you the Donald Bolton I played with as a child, both your parents being so closely linked with mine?  If so then we could correspond further by e-mail if the web master obliges with your e-mail address.  Shakun Banfield (Chowdhary) 

    By Shakun Banfield (16/02/2015)
  • The Laindon Shopping Centre is privately owned.  The previous owners, ‘Laindon Regeneration’ went into liquidation in 2013 and were unable to continue with their plans.  The Centre has recently been taken over by developers ‘Mar City’ who are planning to unveil their plans this coming Spring. 

    The people of Laindon have been waiting far too long now for the problem of their shopping centre to be sorted out.  Perhaps a solution is now in sight and the new plans will be suitable and acceptable to everybody concerned.   For now, we can only stay positive and keep hoping.        

    By Nina Humphrey(née Burton) (07/02/2015)
  • I recently visited Laindon Shopping centre out of curiosity. I used to live on the Siporex estate in the early 70’s and at that time the centre was a thriving and busy place.  I am shocked and appalled at the condition of it now. It looks like a war zone. Surely the people of Laindon deserve a decent place to shop. Apparently it has been like this for years.  The landlords should hang their heads in shame. The council should get off their backsides and remedy this situation.

    By D.Bolton (06/02/2015)
  • I read that the council is setting up a tri-party committee to look into the future of the Laindon Centre. What is surprising is that the Councillor leading this is from Wickford, does not say much for our local Councillor. Perhaps he is too ashamed to admit that he has only mentioned it when he wants votes.

    I again will not be raising my hops that we will get a solution to improving the eyesore that is our current shopping centre.

    By Ian Mott (06/10/2014)
  • I suggest that the “eyesore” aka Laindon Shopping Centre is filled with Basildon Councillors and their shedloads of ideas and shelved plans, along with the present owners, is towed out into the mid Atlantic and sunk with Navy gunfire, oops, sorry we don’t have a Navy.  Perhaps it could be scuttled in the Thames Estuary for use as hardcore for “Boris Island”.

    By Robert Springate (25/01/2014)
  • I read with interest today that Basildon council have put together a master plan for the borough for up to 2031. Laindon can look forward to a new shopping centre and another 2300 houses plus 5.5 hectares of industrial estate.

    But what caught my eye was that the council are  in talks with network rail with the view to build a new railway station to the east of laindon where on earth can they site a new station between Laindon and basildon the two stations can only be two miles apart.

    By Barry Ellerby (11/12/2013)
  • Barry’s last comment makes me wonder if the idea is for the closure of Laindon Station, something Basildon have wanted to do for many Years. They could also close Basildon which has proved to be a disaster and replace them with a new station to the west of Roundacre.  This would allow them to relocate the bus station nearer to the railway station freeing up more space for their grandiose plans for the Town Centre. The only hope is that as with most things in Basildon they will never have enough money to complete their hair brain schemes.

    By Ian Mott (11/12/2013)
  • The owners of the Laindon Centre have gone into receivership and the matter is now in the hands of Solicitors. Therefore the Council are unable to do anything. Unfortunately, we will have to await the outcome in due course.

    By Nina Humphrey(née Burton) (12/06/2013)
  • With the Laindon Centre going into receivership, it would be the business of the administrators to obtain the highest tender for the property. I do not imagine any of the retail giants would enter into this, as there would be insufficient parking space necessary for large supermarkets, also would they consider spending large sums of money to create a complex which would be in competition with outlets they already have in the area and would diminish the profits of those. 

    I suggest it would be of greater interest to one of the major building industries to secure the site for the building of homes with a possible concession of the provision of a small parade of little shops for local trade. I appreciate this would be opposed by some who believe there is insufficient amenities for such a development, but it would supply a much needed commodity and remove the present eyesore of urban decay. 

    While companies hope to achieve a degree of local approval, their main concern is the profit to their shareholders. Philanthropy seems to play no part in modern society.

    By W.H.Diment (12/06/2013)
  • Laindon shopping center needs complete overhaul. Have the Council forgotten the mess in Laindon of part demolished structures and rundown Shopping Centre. It is a disgrace. 

    Fix it or attract a business to build on the site, to develop it as is happening at Pitsea with a supermarket like Morrison’s. 

    Come Council do something!

    By A George (11/06/2013)
  • I agree entirely with the original comments and remarks made re the slum that is Laindon Centre. I have sent letters to councillor Buckley and head of council Ball, over a very long period. Some years back Buckley said redevelopment was imminent, I have suggested the council have been led by the nose by the owners. We in Laindon and Langdon Hills, have to put up with this eyesore, it could become an attractive area with local shops and traders and local facilities. It’s apparent to me this council are only interested in using any space in Basildon for more housing and local facilities suffer.

    By Les Woodward (10/04/2013)
  • I nursed my mother from January to April 2011, she had been the Warden at Helmores in Laindon, although she was a patriotic and nationalistic Scot, she had a profound love for the people and the town of Laindon.

    When I was in your town I would use the town centre shops, as a Scot I couldn’t believe how run down they were. The south east of England is always portrayed as being a mecca in Scotland. 

    I’m very grateful to Laindon for the gift of years you gave to my mother, you deserve a great town centre

    By Stephen Morrison (01/02/2013)
  • Some of the comments about the decline of Laindon shopping centre seem to miss the point about the shops and the Laindon centre in general. Many locals like myself were born in Laindon from Essex families and of course we remember the High Road with its varied selection of shops we had but we are not under any illusion about expecting them to be replaced.The comments and photos of the old shops on the site are there to enlighten people and so show them what we had locally compared to the travesty of a shopping centre we now have to endure. All we are asking for is some basic facilities, after all money has been found to build so many new housing developments in the immediate vicinity surely it is not beyond the authorities to realise that the infrastructure won’t be able to cope with the influx of so many more residents. How will the Health Centre manage with so many more patients? With only one Senior School in the Laindon catchment area what will happen to the education of the older children? 

    Regarding the shops in the Laindon centre. 

    I would like somebody to explain why in the news papers we are regularly told about the regeneration of Wickford, the regeneration of Pitsea!! 

    Why has Laindon been sacrificed for Basildon after all of us in Laindon like Pitsea and Wickford are all satellites of the town centre. All three towns were established long before Basildon was built but why was Laindon been chosen to be systematically destroyed over the years? We have yet again missed out on a superstore. Why does Pitsea require another large supermarket when they already they have a huge 24 hour store almost within sight of the new Morrisons about to be built. Wickford has an established high street of many years so it has a heart to the community. Both these towns have a nucleus to centre on as a community. Our town has been decimated over the years leaving us nothing but a derelict core. How can people take pride in their town when the authorities don’t seem to care and have left us on the periphery of Basildon in such a poor state for so long. We are not asking for much just a few basic shops in a pleasant setting for the local people who do not have the wherewithal to shop on line or are able to travel far to enable them to visit shops. Why are we being deprived of such a basic local facility? If there was a somewhere for the locals to meet neighbours or friends while shopping would help. Communicating is known to help the social wellbeing of people combating loneliness. This alone could put back a little community spirit. Here at the Laindon Archive we are constantly being told how people are dismayed at the state of the area. It’s easy for comments made by folks not living here to comment on what we should be content with in the way of retail premises or not as the case may be. Locals have been getting increasingly frustrated by constantly being overlooked to the detriment of our town. Over the years it has not been easy to see what was once a thriving area turn into such a dilapidated state. Lets hope somebody will take notice of our pleas and in the not too distant future some body in power will acknowledge our needs. 

    Out of the six archives set up just over two years ago we at the Laindon archive are proud of the fact that we have the largest numbers of responses and hits [2-3000 approx. per month] on the site from all over the world from ex-Laindoners or friends since the website was launched. At least through this medium we are able to keep in contact so we can say this site IS our community for now. We can only live in hope.

    By Patsy Mott (04/01/2013)
  • Contributors to this page have all spent at least part of their lives in Laindon and remember their idyllic younger years with love and nostalgia. The memories are treasured. I am no different. This was our childhood. This is why we want Laindon to remain as we knew it and resent the changes that have been imposed. The High Road with its many shops are part of these memories.

    This is not, however, the reality. The reality was cardboard cut outs to put in our shoes to hopefully retard the wet. Visits to the loo in winter to find the contents of the bucket frozen. The standpipe frozen in the winter and no water. Bath nights in a galvanized tub with water heated on the stove. The oldest sibling first and then succeeding siblings in the same increasingly dirty water. One open fire to heat the entire house with family members jostling to get close. Waking up in the morning with thick frost on the inside of the bedroom window. Vegetables with dinner comprising potatoes and cabbage day after day week after week. Walking and shivering in the rain. Why did it always have to rain? 

    The reality are ailments that we saw all around us either at home or at school. Measles, chicken pox, influenza, whooping cough, chilblains, scarlet fever, impetigo, polio, pneumonia, rickets and the dreaded killer diptheria. 

    The reality was fathers on piece work or a short work week earning minimum wages with little or no governmental safety net to catch the unfortunates. Fathers who, even when there was work, had to combat their own ill health in order to bring home some money. Mothers, old before their time, worn down by a hard scrabble existance with little knowledge of, or access to, birth control. 

    The reality was stopping at Goddens the butchers where flies would be landing and feasting on meat hanging in his window which was open to the outside. Then a stop at Cole’s the greengrocer whose produce was displayed on the top of boxes which protuded from the front of his store and took up half of the pedestrian area. A pound of plums. Clearly one or two bad and bruised ones were included but no complaint was raised. There were bound to be bad ones in a box and we all had to take our share. No picking and choosing.

    The reality was mud. Mud everywhere. Once off the High Road or a few other streets all streets were mud. If lucky there would be stones laid on one side of the street such that one could step from one stone to the next. But always, everywhere, mud. Yes, there were those exceptional days or even weeks when the mud dried up, the sun shone warm and bright, birds and butterflies were in abundance, while flowers and grasses combined to bring myriad sights and scents to Laindon. Those are the days we tend to remember. The reality, however, is that Laindon in those years was akin to a third world country. 

    I make no defence of the many unfortunate choices and changes inflicted on Laindon High Road and the many small shops that we all fondly remember.The fact is that Laindon was never a Castle Coombe or a Broadway or, closer to home, a pretty little Stock or attractive Billericay. The fact is it never was an attractive looking village. It is only that it was our village and that is the way we remember it. 

    The reality is that no government, national or local, and no group of private investors are ever going to restore Laindon High Road to what we remember or anything even closely resembling it. The reality is that the old Laindon High Road will always be there. In our memories, with nostalgia and longing. That is something that no government or group of private investors will ever be able to change.

    By Alan Davies (02/01/2013)
  • The opinions in respect of the Laindon Centre suggests to me that it it has no future as a shoppimg venue within the parameters claimed to be the needs of the community, that of a complex of small independent traders. Such a complex was built in the 1970s’ but fell into dereliction due to lack of patronage, exorbitant rents and failure to compete pricewise with supermarkets. Yet there is a call to demolish the centre and rebuild as a complex of small independent traders, the overheads of which will be greatly enhanced by the cost of rebuilding. Albert Einstein once said “to repeat the same mistakes and expect a different outcome is a definition of insanity”. 

    The alternative would be to invite big businesses to set up shop, but would there be any great rush to do so, given that companies such as Asda, B&Q, Argos and Halfords exist less than a mile away. It is said that Basildon Town Centre is in decline, but these are predominately small traders. 

    Ian suggests there is a need for a smart cafe and restaurant, yet this could be sited outside the centre as the old Laindon Hotel site could accomodate a cafe and restaurant with function rooms. Like it or not, the defining factors are not the needs or desires of the populace, but whether any ventures will be financially viable in the long term.

    By W.H.Diment (02/01/2013)
  • I visited Laindon Shopping centre on the 24/12/12 to get a few last minute Christmas bits and pieces. I went into the Co-op, Martins, Greggs the bakers then popped into the Sue Ryder shop to say “Hello”. All the shops I visited where busy and the staff very jolly and the car park full. 

    The way I see things it’s the good will of the traders who have had to survive in the surroundings that only can be described as post apocalyptic conditions and the shoppers who have supported them. The whole centre looks like its had a NATO air strike attack. 

    The owners have to be bought to account by the BDC who should force their arm to sort this mess out. The centre could be refurbished at a lot less cost than that of demolition and rebuilding. This has worked in Clacton very well, I have seen the result and the area looks nice. 

    I agree with Nina that only time will tell what happens next but one thing is sure, something has to be done very soon. But during the meantime we have to hope that the traders that are left can hold on in these hard times. 

    The appalling conditions they have been left to deal with in the centre are not ideal. Laindon deserves better after all so much was given to allow them to build the new town.

    By Barry Ellerby (02/01/2013)
  • I believe Barry Ellerby’s comment sums up the attitude of the locals seeking a local shopping centre. He popped in for a few bits and pieces.

    By W.H.Diment (02/01/2013)
  • As previously mentioned, I am sure we have all long come to accept the fact that our High Road will not be restored to how it was prior to 1970, a fact that we have already learned to live with. Any wishes and hopes for a restored High Road were dashed long ago. 

    That still leaves the on-going unresolved future of the Laindon Centre and how it will eventually be presented to us. Only time will tell, small shops or a mall, or none at all, we can only wait until something is announced. None of us are naïve and know full well that the area might be used for houses and flats. I will of course accept the final outcome graciously, like it or not, whatever it maybe, as I cannot fight the powers that be and the inevitable. 

    Maybe I am on my own here but I prefer to remain optimistic and positive. Let’s hope that 2013 will bring us the answer we have been waiting so long to hear.

    By Nina Humphrey(née Burton) (01/01/2013)
  • REFLECTIONS, It has been very interesting reading all the comments on Laindon and its shopping demise. I have noticed a large proportion of Laindoners came via their parents/grandparents from the East End of London, quite understandably, but have they ever thought how the local inhabitants of Laindon, Langdon Hills and Dunton felt with the influx of new dwellers. Before that time it must have been so quiet and rural and gradually more and more shops started to appear. 

    It is no different how we feel that Basildon has engulfed us as my ancestors must have felt in the early to mid nineteenth century when Laindon started its growth. My grt grt grandmother was born in Dunton in 1823 my grt grandparents were married in St Mary’s and All Saints in 1879 I wonder what their veiws were to the changes to their lovely peaceful lifestyle? 

    All of my ancestors came from Essex villages, all Agricultural Labourers and the changes they all saw must have been immense, but that is progress.

    By Ellen English nee Burr (01/01/2013)
  • I think you have all missed the point, please consider the following. 

    We have the dilapidated shopping centre in Basildon Town centre which is suffering, as are many town centres, from out of town sales parks that surround them, where display area costs less. 

    Basildon Town Centre despite the hopes of the planners can never compete with the Lakeside and Bluewater centres and needs to try and find a way of being different and providing facilities that are not available in the out of town shopping centres. Even if the diversity of shops in the town centre is increased the cost of parking will always put it at a disadvantage to the other areas. 

    Alan made the comment that the internet would not take over from the shops as people liked to see the physical goods. While I agree with this, they also realise that if you buy goods from a shop the cost of running the shop has to be included in the sales price. Many just look and then buy direct on the internet when they get home. 

    There have been many occasions when I have found that items I wish to purchase from a shop but find I can purchase it cheaper on line and that it will be delivered to me faster than from the shop. 

    We have all realised that what the owner of the site is trying to achieve is the replacement of the centre with housing. However Richard’s solution is a dream when you see the standard of recent development in Laindon and Basildon. 

    The King Edward Road development is a good example. Yes we all agree that the Royal Court Tower Blocks were very much out of place but their replacement with high density flats, at a higher density than the old East End slums, have removed the last of the open space within the estate that was over looked by the residents. It is no wonder that rickets is on the rise, now that we are building on all the areas where children can play in the open air area that can be overlooked by their parents. 

    What I would like to see in Laindon are a few independent shops where you can buy fresh products from somebody who is knowlageable about the products such as a baker, a butcher, a fishmonger and greengrocer, a decent café and a restaurant.

    By Ian Mott (31/12/2012)
  • I think some of the points I have raised above need to be explained further. Ian seems to be fearful that all new residential development will be of poor quality. This need not be the case, although I no longer live in Laindon I have looked carefully at it lately and can say that some of the properties on the Laindon High Road School site especially the town houses going further into the site on the left hand side appear to be built in accordance with the Essex Design Guide and have open green areas fronting them. 

    I am not saying that the development is perfect, it isnt but it has shown promise and any new development, if suitably scaled to suit the site could be successful. Lets face it, Laindon is not a centre for shopping any longer. What I am thinking of is a more up market approach to a residential site, possibly designed by independent architects and put together by an experienced developer and funded by a specialist bank who would test the market fully before proceeding. 

    With respect, I think it has been established above as to why independent shops could not survive in Laindon in the current market where everybody buys bread, fish and other provisions from supermarkets once a week.

    By Richard Haines (31/12/2012)
  • Wow. This article has become a fantastic discussion forum. Some great comments, opinions and ideas. I am really enjoying reading each new entry, agreeing with some, disagreeing with others. We too have bought several things over the last couple of years, firstly visiting various shops to examine the goods and compare prices, then returned home and found the same item on line at a much lower price, quite often with free, fast delivery. Who could blame anybody for doing the same! 

    I would love the Laindon Centre to be revamped with a few small specialist shops. Those within walking distance (including myself) would certainly prefer to shop there rather than have to take a bus or have my husband drive me into Basildon with its parking charges, which itself is fast becoming a shanty town with so many empty units, many of which have become charity shops. 

    I don’t drive myself and I am sure there are plenty more like me who are hoping for a few new shops to be opened in Laindon Centre. I agree that the estate east of the High Road leading to Laindon Station isn’t a pretty sight, but I can’t envisage any change there, certainly not in my life time anyway. Those houses still have life left in them and I am sure will stand for many years to come as Laindon and Langdon Hills becomes more and more urban and crowded. Families who bought their children to Laindon from the East End of London for health reasons i.e. fresh air and green fields in the 20s and 30s now have grandchildren and great grandchildren who have restricted outside space to play in, so spend many hours playing computer games while sitting still indoors. My childhood in Laindon was spent mostly out-of-doors. I believe that dwindling green spaces are only part of the reason for today’s children staying inside. Technology has much to do with it. 

    On the third of the Memory Walks in August 2012, we passed through a lovely green area where Glenwood Gardens meets Crest Avenue. There’s quite a large space of green grass between the houses with shady areas provided by several oak trees. An ideal spot for local children to run about, play with a ball or have a picnic. I pass the area regularly on the way to my daughter’s house and can quite honestly say I have never seen a child there, not even in the school holidays. Some might say it’s because parents are frightened to let their children out nowadays but I think it’s more likely that most prefer to stay indoors watching the TV or playing with their X-boxes. 

    Some schools haven’t helped in recent years by cutting down on PE activities. I‘m not painting all children with the same brush as plenty remain active and enjoy sporting activities, however, with today’s sedentary lifestyle and fast-food trend, it’s no wonder conditions such as rickets and obesity are on the rise. I feel there is a ‘great divide’ in today’s society. Those who join gyms and health clubs, run for fun, walk everywhere and eat healthily and others who are not interested and can’t be bothered with such things. I hope that I fit somewhere in the middle.

    By Nina Humphrey(née Burton) (31/12/2012)
  • If Richard considers the homes on the old Laindon School site, even those surrounding the green, which is there as a flood relief area are what we can expect for the future then God help us. 

    Back to the shopping centre Laindon needs a focal point and a shopping centre would create that. All the other old communities have their shopping centres which are well attended and unless Basildon redevelop (destroy) them will continue to evolve.

    By Ian Mott (31/12/2012)
  • While one must agree that it would be nice to see independent outlets selling fresh commodities. Would these be incorporated in a mall or a large scale shopping area, as I can remember several butchers and bakery oullets in the Basildon Town centre which have failed to survive due to supermarket competition. The concept of a small trader is a family business, yet how many would risk their savings to operate when others have tried and failed to compete with big business. Had the traders of old Laindon been allowed to upgrade their shops and continue to trade, I believe the small traders would have survived, as shown by Billericay High St. where many of the small shops date back to the pre-new town era and are owned or leased by individual landlords and are stil thriving. Regretfully Laindon High was destroyed by so called progress and will never be restored, as small affordable premises are unlikely ever to become available. Our dreams of recreating the High Rd., of our memories are wishful thinking and I suggest will only remain as such. I believe that accepting the inevitable does not condone what has taken place, but we should try our best to live with it.

    By W.H.Diment (31/12/2012)
  • Yes, I totally agree with Bill Dement and his accurate assessment of the situation. In fact this gives credence to my solution which is not to build any shops on the Laindon Centre site. Carefully chosen architecture and use of good quality building materials would be a far better solution if housing density and landscape treatment are approached correctly. 

    What Laindon High Road needs, especially on the east side, is a better form of character and we should learn from the mistakes of the sixties and seventies. I’m sure there are specialist banks and private developers who would take the project on as we eventually come out of recession. Let’s have no more flats like the previous disaster off King Edward Road or ghetto development like those approaching either side of the railway station.

    By Richard Haines (30/12/2012)
  • Alan Davies asks if there was some financial naivety in raising rents to an unaffordable level causing local businesses to close when the was little prospect of the empty premises being re-let. Would I be cynical in suggesting that this may have been the whole purpose of the exercise which caused the demise of the shopping area leading to its expected demolition leaving a prime area for a housing development, the buildings of which could be sold for immediate profit instead of long term rentals from shops. The desirability of this could be argued as there is a heavy demand for housing, whereas there is no certainty that a new shopping area would be a more needed development, given the fact than the earlier centre failed to receive the substantial support of the locals and there is no certainty this trend could be reversed.

    By W.H.Diment (29/12/2012)
  • Bill Diment’s “cynical” suggestion that lessors may have wanted the local shops to fail thus freeing up the land for more remunerative purposes makes a lot of sense to me. Now the business model begins to look more recognisable!!

    By Alan Davies (29/12/2012)
  • Internet shopping has been available in the United States for at least fifteen years. Its success is limited to entreprenurial startups who serve limited urban areas. Only one traditional grocer remains in the business although others have tried it. Their business is restricted to dry goods as refrigerated and frozen goods pose too many problems. Their share of the total market is miniscule. Their prices are higher, there exists a delivery charge, the service still requires a traditional visit to the store for frozen or refrigerated goods, and the ability to change one’s mind when alternate or preferred options are on sale, and for impulse buying, is absent. I find it difficult to believe that the UK experience would be much different. 

    I find it odd that increasingly high rental costs should be advanced as a prime reason for the closure of small shops in the Laindon Centre. It is a strange business model that imposes increasing rental costs on the lessee such that the lessee goes out of business. The lessor is then left with a boarded up property and no rent at all. A classic case of killing the goose that lays the golden egg.

    By Alan Davies (28/12/2012)
  • In a way Basildon Town Centre slowly cut into the trade of the Laindon shops long before the building of the Laindon Shopping Centre. When we first moved to Laindon in 1957 the High Road shops were thriving and mum used to walk from Nichol Road daily, usually as far as the station area to get all the things we needed, not even having a fridge then.

    However, I can remember my parents going on Saturdays in our Ford Prefect to Victor Value supermarket in Basildon around 1960 when it first opened, offering as it did, trading stamps as a further attraction. Also Sainsburys had a busy shop in Town Square some time later. All this was a natural progression for people becoming more prosperous (‘you’ve never had it so good’) as the fifties turned into the sixties. 

    However, it is difficult to understand the planning concepts behind the Laindon Centre. Why was there the sudden need to demolish the area on the east side of the High Road south of St Nicholas Lane only to completely fill it with bricks, mortar and concrete when millions of pounds yearly were being poured into Basildon New Town? Surely the need was to invest in better roads like Laindon Link and in public transport whereby the Town Centre itself could have been made more accessible. 

    Some of the buses running in the days we were in Laindon were probably prewar and car ownership was only just taking a hold. As has been explained above by others the shopping habits of us all has been changed by the out of town supermarkets and total car ownership. 

    With this in mind, my solution for the current disused Laindon Centre would be to totally clear the whole site, including all concrete hardstandings and to build one or two small select residential housing areas and to landscape around them using trees and shrubs commonly found in Essex as would have been present in the early 20th Century. Demolition could then continue towards the station of those existing eyesore housing areas. Newer housing could be constructed of a much higher quality and groups of good standard shops could be interspersed, towards and around the railway station area. 

    I’ll pause for a moment now to consider what could be done on the Langdon Hills side.

    By Richard Haines (28/12/2012)
  • I quite agree with Ian in respect of exorbitant rents being one of the factors for closing small shops, but if a new Laindon Centre is built will there be a predominance of small shops and will they have subsidised rents to enable them to compete with the larger retail outlets or will it be like the Pipps Hill Retail Park with no small traders. 

    A major difference visiting shops between small and large outlets is that most of those who use a small shop enter with a specific purchase in mind but when using the supermarkets quite a lot of the sales are by ‘invitation purchase’ of marked down items which may not have been on the shoppers original list. 

    Nor do I believe that internet shopping will overtake visiting shops as many like to see what they are buying, also if ordering consumable goods on line, some stores will if they have not an ordered item available supply the ‘nearest alternative’ which may not be to the consumers liking. 

    I agree that for some people who work all day shopping on line can be a great help, but I believe these are and will remain a minority. This must be a view widely held by those in industry who plan new shopping venues, otherwise they would never invest in such projects which need long term use to be able to repay the cost of building.

    By W.H.Diment (27/12/2012)
  • Good Tidings on Christmas Eve. This morning we received a reply from Basildon Council to our objection to the KFC Drive-through being built on the site of the old Laindon Hotel. The project has been refused. The two main reasons being; firstly that no shops are to be allowed outside of the main Laindon Shopping Centre and secondly, such a building and car park would not fit in with the visual aspect of the area.

    By Nina Humphrey(née Burton) (24/12/2012)
  • William. I partly agree and partly disagree with you here. Yes, my Mother and Grandmother had to shop on a daily basis for groceries as we didn’t have fridges or other means of keeping food fresh for more than a day or two. Neither worked as it was a blow to a man’s pride in those days to have his wife go out to work. He was head of the family and the breadwinner. This was the only area where my dad “put his foot down”. He was otherwise the kindest and most considerate husband and father who just happened to have been brought up to have such views. 

    Therefore the ladies would trawl the individual shops looking for the best prices, to stretch the ‘housing keeping’ their husbands gave them. However, he did relent eventually and allowed mum to have a part time job from around 1959 on the proviso that she agreed to retire the very day that he did. 

    In recent years, both husband and wife have needed to go out to work full time to afford to pay the high cost of their mortgages/rent and other living expenses. This included myself and my husband. Pushing a trolley around a supermarket once a week was certainly not my “preferred” mode of shopping, it was an absolute necessity as I worked all through the week. I would much rather have had the time to take a leisurely stroll to the shops each day. 

    These days, I agree with you, the large shopping malls have become almost a ‘day out’ for many people. This is a very interesting topic and open to many varying views and opinions, depending on individual experiences. As for the future of the Laindon Shopping Centre, only time will tell what happens next and whether we see a repeat of its decline. Maybe with the new housing on Laindon High Road School site and those proposed for Dunton Fields, Dry Street and other areas will bring more shoppers to Laindon Centre when it is finally revamped. I prefer to remain positive.

    By Nina Humphrey(née Burton) (24/12/2012)
  • I tend to agree with most of the comments offered by Bill Diment in his posting of 23/12/2012. All shopping had to be within walking distance and all purchases carried back by hand across fields and muddy roads which were often no more than cart tracks. Given these limitations the High Road shops were the sole option. The closure of so many small shops in the Laindon Centre and its decline can be explained in three words. Follow the money! 

    As much as the populous at large may decry the disapearance of the small shop with its personal attention very few are prepared to pay extra for it. These same critics of change with a yearning for the small shops of yesteryear are the first to hop in their cars and head for the nearest Aldi or Morrisons. This is why the small shops failed in the first place!

    By Alan Davies (24/12/2012)
  • There are additional reason for the decline in the small local shops. 

    One is landlords who charge exorbitant rents. 

    Another is the local authority planning departs that have allowed out of town retail developments. 

    There are however a number of changes now taking place that may well make us all regret the loss of our local shops. 

    The increased use of the Internet is likely to remove the need for the multi national chains to have out of town stores as they will only require warehouses to make deliveries from. This move could well work to the advantage of the small trader, the farmers and manufacturers who would have direct access to the customer cutting out a complete level of overhead.

    The increasing cost of transport will make travelling to out of town centres a luxury rather than the norm.

    By Ian Mott (24/12/2012)
  • A sincere and accurate article together with some excellent photographs, written straight from the heart, which I am sure echoes the opinion of all Laindoners, both past and present.

    My paternal grandparents arrived in Laindon as far back as 1915 when it was a friendly blossoming little village – a real pleasure in comparison to the East End of London. My maternal grandparents arrived in 1923 and were more than happy to make Laindon their permanent home. Oh how glad I am, than none of them can see it now.

    Ideally the shopping centre should be completely demolished and our High Road reinstated, although we know full well that isn’t going to happen. Of course we would like our village to return to how it was before the mid-sixties, but life moves on and changes are inevitable, a fact we have to accept. However, there is a limit, a line of acceptability, which in this case has been well and truly crossed. Currently, the shopping centre, newly built and smart in 1970 is now nothing less than a disgusting disgrace. The good people of Laindon and the few remaining traders, deserve a plaudit for their patience over the years. Waiting, trusting and hoping that the promised improvements will happen, sooner rather than later. Well no more. Broken promises and scrapped plans have resulted in an ugly shanty town area that many of us prefer to avoid in its present state. I don’t pretend to know the answers, I am not a political animal but I really like Andrea’s suggestion of a Mayor of Laindon. We need a human hub from where we can make our voices heard loud and clear. Somebody voted in by our community who could represent us and start to make a difference.

    As for the planned KFC on the site of the old Laindon Hotel, we do not want or need another fast food outlet. Instead I feel that area might be the ideal position for the relocation of the Laindon Health Centre. The new Laindon Health Centre as advertised and displayed in one of the empty Laindon Centre shops 3 or 4 years ago has failed to materialise and appears to have been just another set of plans and promises that have gone to ground.

    By Nina Humphrey(née Burton) (23/12/2012)
  • We reminnisce about days gone by when the Laindon High Rd. was a thriving commercial venue with scores of small shops catering for most of our needs. The reason was that the local people relied upon them and had to shop there as few had transport to enable them to shop elsewhere. Also, the modern concept of ‘weekly shopping’ had not developed as people had not the facilities for carrying or storing a large quantity of provisions. Today, a large proportion people do not favour trawling around various small shops for their needs, but prefer to push a trolley around a supermarket for most of their requirements and then out to their cars.

     The Laindon Centre has been vilified as being decrepit and run down with most shops boarded up. Yet when it first opened, there were many small shops, but fell into decline and closure due to the failure of local people to patronise them and its demise is due to the motor cars of those who travel to supermarkets who can supply a range of goods at a price beyond the capability of many small shoopkeeepers. Unless the Laindon Centre is re-developed into a mini Lakeside or Bluewater it will again fail as a result of insufficient patronage by the local people who will continue to shop elsewhere.

    By WH.Diment (23/12/2012)
  • I grew up in Laindon in the late 80’s early 90’s and Laindon was the place to be, every shop was occupied and the market was on every saturday. 

    I returned to Laindon in the late 90’s and worked in Laindon Shopping Centre and saw the area start slowly to go downhill. I moved away in early 2000’s as the area had gone downhill so fast.

    I know things change but things in this day and age should change for the better. I really hope Laindon Shopping Centre does not end up being Demolished as it played a major part in many peoples lifes.

    By Bryan Andrews (12/11/2012)
  • This reads like a Horror Story without a Happy Ending. Who has the authority or the political will to reverse the trend? Who among the community has the moral, financial and intellectual resources to fight back against the faceless, inept bureaucracy in the Town Hall, the (perhaps) well-meaning but ill-equipped councillors and the inappropriate, rampant capitalists that skew the balance of power towards the already rich and powerful? (This is not exactly a NEW problem, is it?).

    The evidence implies that High Streets full of thriving retail businesses have “had their day”: it’s time for a radical rethink, maybe, of how best to glue communities together and create some esprit de corps?

    Perhaps it is time for a Parish Council? Cometh the hour, cometh the man? But is another level of management the answer? 

    What can voluntary groups bring to the table? The Community Archive could even become the heart of positive, vibrant regeneration, if there was a consensus to take an active, political route – that would create a legacy to be proud of! I wish I had the answers! Good luck, Laindon – and hang on in there!

    By David Hurrell (08/08/2012)
  • Its appalling what the fat cats have done to line their own pockets – that’s what it comes down to. What needs to be done now? Surely it needs knocking down completely, just the same as happened in the 1970’s. Start again but this time do it properly by bringing back a village atmosphere with shops and properties to suit. Ask locals what they would like to have. 

    Basildon generally needs more doctor surgeries and another one hospital at least; if we are to build more houses etc then the occupants will need decent services. And, as in France, perhaps we need to have a Mayor in the village – a percentage of the people responsible for new developments should also have to live in the area they believe is good for the locals.

    By Andrea Ash (nee Pinnell) (05/08/2012)

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