It was just over a year ago that we started to help facilitate the work of the Vange Hill Community Group on the ¾ estate. It has been a productive relationship and we have learnt a few useful lessons about working at the grassroots. To mark this, we’re reproducing the lead article from The Hill, the community newsletter we helped to produce for them.

Let’s make this estate a better place to live!

Who are we?

The Vange Hill Community Group was formed just over a year ago after an estate walkabout involving residents and representatives from Basildon & Southend Housing Action (BASHA). The two councillors for the ward, Melissa McGeorge and Kayte Block even put in a rare appearance! Since then, with support from BASHA, we have been busy doing our level best to make this estate a better place to live.

What do we do?

We lobby Basildon Council, Essex County Council and the various housing associations with a presence on the estate to do the job they’re paid to do. You don’t need us to tell you that this estate has suffered from years of neglect and it’s time the authorities were held to account for this.

Nagging the authorities only gets us so far then we have to take matters into our own hands! Over the last year, there have been community clean up and gardening days supported by BASHA. These have focused on clearing up fly-tipping, uncollected rubbish and litter. They have also involved guerilla gardening on a number of pocket gardens across the estate.

As well as the community clean up days, we have supporters out and about during the week maintaining the pocket gardens, clearing paths and unblocking drains. There’s activity going on all of the time to make the estate a better place to live.

There’s only so much a small number of us can achieve. We’re not asking people to make a massive commitment. All we’re asking is for residents to start looking after the areas in front of and adjacent to their homes. A couple of hours a week spent by households across the estate doing this would start to make a big difference.

Why are we doing this?

We’ve had enough of feeling like we’ve been thrown under the bus and living on an estate that has been neglected by the authorities for too long. We want to make this estate a place that has a real sense of community and where people are proud to live.

As well as physically making a difference, the clean up days and ongoing gardening activities get people out of their homes and working together for the good of the community. We’ve found this is a great way for people to get to know each other and break down the sense of isolation too many people on this estate experience.

We want to build a sense of pride in the estate and solidarity in a community where people start to look out for each other. Also, a strong community is a deterrent to anti-social behaviour and crime.