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Laindon
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Laindon 1, 2 and 3 Bluehouse Housing Estate


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Northey view
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Location: Rising Grove
Year of photo: 1979
Copyright: Basildon History Online
Comments: Three-storey properties at Northey.
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The former Laindon 1, 2 and 3 housing estate, often remembered as the 'Siporex' estate, (named after a new building material developed in Sweden), or the 'Bluehouse' estate, (after the former farm called Bluehouse which stood close to the site now occupied by the Bluehouse Farm Community Centre), was the first Basildon Development Corporation housing estate to be built in Laindon.

The 950 home estate was designed by the corporation's chief architect and planner Anthony B. Davies, F.R.I.B.A. It was constructed from late 1964 onwards by joint contractors Richard Costain and W.C. French using new building methods - but proved over time to be problematic with various structure defects requiring expensive renovation work.

This estate was not the first in the town to use an industrialised method of building. In 1962 18 houses at Knights on the Lee Chapel North estate were built to this method in a pilot scheme where pre-cast sections were assembled on-site. These properties had also been designed by Anthony B. Davies.

Main contractor Richard Costain, who also built the houses at Knights, were involved under licence through their subsidairy; Costain Concrete Company Ltd. in the development of Siporex as a building material in the UK.

By 1966 many first time corporation tenants began moving into the properties which were given the street names Rising Grove, Spurriers, The Lynge, Northey and Danacre.

The estate, which covered around 40 acres, was completed in 1967 10 months longer than expected. This was due in part to Siporex sections transported from the Costain cement works at Newmains, Lanarkshire, Scotland which were either damaged in transit or during the unloading process coupled with appalling on-site conditions brought about by bad weather.

The cost of the estate was put at around £3½ million.

Layout

Property layout on the estate was terraced with a predominance of two, three, and four bedroomed properties in either 2 or 3 storey form. Some three storey houses had an integral garage as did some properties built on each of the three raised 'decks'. The majority of ground level houses were built with a wider than average opening to the lounge, which was doorless. Many tenants would later build their own doorframe. The lounge in these properties also had an additional stable door to the rear garden. There was a level of unorthordox nature to the interior design which included the upstairs bedroom layout, which in some cases were built over the adjacent property. Also some two bedroomed houses had an upstairs lounge. All two storey houses had a downstairs toilet and a bathroom/toilet on the first floor. Three storey town houses had their bathroom on the top floor at the front of the property. Heating was by electric underfloor elements with an additional electric two bar wall mounted fire mounted on the lounge wall. The electric heating systems proved expensive to run and were replaced with gas central heating in the 1980s refurbishment. Some houses had a small utility room with access to the garden in the absence of an outdoor shed. All properties were connected to the cable television service provided by Rediffusion.

There were no detached or semi-detached houses on the estate. Some flats in Rising Grove had an entrance door at ground level with a stairway to accommodation, which was above garages. Properties on the three 'decks' were 2 storey houses with either a garage and garden at ground level or just a garden, or neither depending on which side of the deck you lived. Above these properties were single storey flats accessed from the main deck stairway.

All properties were designed with a minimum of slope in the roof eradicating the need for a loft enclosure. Given the unconventional nature of the estates layout the numbering was consecutive.

Single storey accommodation for the elderly was provided which again was predominately terraced with the odd semi-detached exception. In addition four blocks of 4 storey flats, 2 in Northey and 2 in Danacre, were also built. One of the Danacre blocks housed a ground floor Doctors' Surgery which later became a dentist.

Recreational green areas existed within the estate with the largest being in Northey. Large evergreen trees grew there close to a small enclosed electricity building. A large paved park on the approach to the Laindon Shopping Centre and another one in front of the entrance to Bluehouse Junior School existed for the life of the estate. Additionally there was a small green with three small artificial hills between Northey and Rising Grove and various other small play areas with slides, swings, climbing frames, see saw, sandpit or roundabouts. Some of these like the see saw and the sandpit were removed for health and safety reasons.

For the motorist, garages were provided below the deck properties and at various places around each service road. There were also number of roofed parking bays which could be hired for a small charge.

A best kept garden award was introduced to encourage tenants to look after the general look of the estate. In the 1980s in an attempt to improve conditions the landord sponsored by The Wiggins Group PLC, introduced a 'best kept homes' award. The estate also had three postboxes, situated in Spurriers, Northey and Leinster Road, and two public telephone boxes at Northey and Rising Grove.

Structural problems

As early as June 1965 and well before completion the design of the houses and the building methods were being criticised by councillors who dubbed them "monstrosities" and "abortions". One councillor even suggested "a bulldozer should knock the lot down." Four years later in 1969 and just three years after the first tenants moved in some tenants were being moved out as problems in the design build began to manifest. Many thousands of pounds was spent on remedial work which in some cases involved creating a raised floor to the upstairs bedrooms but by the late 1970s the estate continued to be beset with structural issues.

In the late 1970s the development corporation began constructing a new housing estate - known as Laindon 8 and 9 - bordering an extended Durham Road in Laindon. This was completed in stages through to 1982 and many of the first tenants in these new homes were from the 'Bluehouse' estate, vacating properties which were then subject to remedial work in the form of a strengthening ceiling support beam, new window frames and a gas central heating system. This proved to be a temporary solution and the estate began to suffer general neglect with some parts, particularly the areas below the decks, becoming prone to crime and antisocial behaviour. The estate also suffered two serious fires, both involving houses in The Lynge. The first, around 1977, was the less serious of the two, but the second, around 1989, completely gutted the property and the resulting inquest drew strong criticism of the downstairs 'open plan' layout.

In the 1990s following years of indecision Basildon Development Corporation's successor, the Commission for the New Towns, transferred ownership of the estate over to Basildon Community Housing Association (BCHA) in order to demolish the estate and start again and in doing so this also meant buying back properties sold following the 'right to buy', introduced in the 1970s. The CNT were also liable for a large percentage of the redevelopment costs which, phased over seven years, amounted to £32.7 million.

Replacement housing

Demolition of the estate began in stages from autumn 1994 onwards and replaced with new conventional housing. The first of the new houses were accepted by BCHA on 30th March, 1995.

The four blocks of 4 storey flats, which were all retained during the redevelopment programme, are now all that remains of the former estate as even the street names, with the exception of Danacre, were overlooked in favour of new church themed ones.

The housing estate is now known as Church View.

Notes:
(1) Davies, Anthony Butler RIBA (elected 1949), A.A. Dipl., A.R.I.B.A., (b.1921 - d.2006), Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. Chief Architech and Planner to Basildon Development Corporation (1958-1964), succeeded Noel Tweeddell (1949-1958), and followed by Douglas Galloway (1964-1979).

Page added: 2001
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Text researched and written by William Cox, 2001 with revisions 2007, 2011.
Copyright © 2001, 2007, 2011, B. Cox - Basildon History Online. All rights reserved.

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