Photo: Liz Lake Associates

Above is an image of the refurbishment of St. Martin’s Square in Basildon town centre as it comes towards completion. Basildon residents will doubtless be all too familiar with this and may even have some interesting tales to relate about its progress! For non-residents of Basildon, this is what’s been happening to the square according to the company responsible for designing and implementing the ‘concept’: St Martin’s Square, Basildon – Granite planter installation.

You can’t deny that is does look very posh and it looks like no effort has been spared in the implementation. As well as the subtle paving scheme (which will be gum-poxed to f**k within a year), there’s the finishing touch of the Spanish granite planters. Austerity? Not in the this part of Basildon sunshine – it’s no expense spared. Why? Bleeding obvious really – it’s right outside the main offices of Basildon Council!

Now we’re aware that this vanity project is a legacy of the previous administration and a new one is now in charge. However, regardless of the political composition of Basildon Council, we reckon a no-expenses spared refurbishment of the square right outside the council offices will find cross party support. Also, it’s well known that the ambitious leader of Basildon Council, Cllr. Gavin Callaghan is eager to leave his mark on the town centre: Ever thought about asking the residents?

The re-development of Basildon town centre is all about ‘place making’ and making a statement that the town is ‘open for business’. That’s a euphemism for saying developers are welcome to make as much profit as they can out of the place. It’s also a Trojan Horse for social engineering as a cohort of younger, more affluent people are offered incentives to come and live in Basildon while longer established, less affluent residents are pushed out to the margins. The fancy paving and the Spanish granite planters send out a not so subtle message that in the future, only a certain type of person will be welcome in the town centre.

The vanity project refurbishment of St. Martins Square stands in sharp contrast to the neglect that’s all too clear to see in other parts of Basildon…

The grim underside of Pitsea flyover

The contrast between the sleekness of St. Martin’s Square and the grimness and neglect of the planning disaster of the pedestrian footways under the Pitsea flyover couldn’t be starker. This is a part of Pitsea that most people want to walk through as quickly as possible during the day, and as darkness falls, will only walk through if there’s no other alternative. Alongside the cheapskate ‘refurbishment’ of Pitsea town centre, it’s hard to escape the impression that compared to Basildon town centre, outlying suburbs such as Pitsea are way down the priority order for the council.

Now, there is a new(ish) administration in charge at Basildon Council. Does a new administration mean a new broom and changed priorities? Or will it be the same old self serving bollocks we’ve always seen, regardless of the political make up of the council? Let’s see if Basildon Council start to give the peripheral estates and areas the attention they deserve. We’ll be watching…