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Regeneration in Southend and the Mad Hatter’s Teaparty

The Southend Central Action Plan

In November 2016, the people on the Queen’s Estate in Baxter Avenue, Southend, received their first indication that their homes were considered to be in the area of the ‘Southend Central Action Plan.’

Our homes were considered an ‘opportunity site’

The Queens Estate was built 34 years ago by Springboard Housing Association which  was then swallowed up by Genesis.

We were all really shaken. This was to be a ‘land grab.’  Our homes are on a site in the centre of Southend. Close to the railway. Close to the small but thriving Southend Airport.  Close to all other amenities.

Ideal really for well-heeled aspiring owner occupiers/buy-to-rent landlords/people hoping to get their foot on the bottom rung of the housing ladder, with the move towards shared ownership.  Just one problem for Genesis. We live here.

Here in Southend, the land that our homes are built on is going to be plundered by Genesis.  We know the ‘planned merger’ between Genesis and Notting Hill Housing Associations, in London, will impact on us, even in deepest Essex.

Alice in Wonderland and Genesis

It is a bit like the fairytale ‘Alice in Wonderland’ – particularly the scene at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party.

You may remember  (in both the book and the film) that when Alice arrives at the tea party, the table is set for a large group of people (a bit like the table in the Genesis Board Room).

However the Mad Hatter and his friends are sat very close together,  at the top of the table.  As Alice tries to sit down, the Mad Hatter (CEO) told her there was  ‘no room’ (specially for residents in Southend).

Alice told them indignantly that there was plenty of room, and sat down anyway.

The triumvirate move on around the table constantly  because there is ‘no time to wash up’  – if they keep moving you on, keep splitting you up, you won’t realise what is really happening.

Alice in Wonderland is a fairytale, but ‘Genesis in Plundered Land’ is real.

Separate meetings and smooth ‘Meet and Greet’ sessions

Genesis is very keen for people in Southend not to unite and speak out. All the blocks on the Queen’s Estate in Baxter Avenue/Boston Avenue have had  separate meetings.  Almost  as if  the fury of all the residents at once, would be ‘unmanageable’.

The very polished and smooth ‘ Meet and Greet’  sessions offered by the consultancy company employed by Genesis  (‘Do have a chocolate biscuit….’) are manifestly ‘spin’  but the glitz and glamour  can appear impressive.

There’s  lots of  A3 sized photographs  of our homes and arrows pointing  out that  ‘This is where you live’  As if, people in social housing are so witless that we do not know where we live and have to  be shown a picture.

Elected representatives do not respond to concerns raised by their constituents. There are those who turn a ‘blind eye’ to injustice because it does not affect them. The media seem content to vilify those in social housing.  Landlords ‘let it and forget it’.  Affluent people who are unconcerned about the tribulations of the ‘undeserving’ poor.   Do you remember that phrase?  It was the phrase used to describe the residents of the Victorian Workhouses.

Genesis has promised that the merger will not force anyone out of their homes – in Southend it is already happening.