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In office chair

Beware of the Leopard

A letter arrived this morning informing me that two planning applications have been made in Nelson that involve, among other things, "Demolition 23 units, renovate & ext 139 dwellings, build 72 dwellings/flats." My office/workshop is in the affected area. I surfed over to council's web site, negotiated the rickety stairs down to the cellar and broke open the filing cabinet in the disused lavatory, then spent far too long trying to make sense of the plans the developer has submitted. I'm still not sure what exactly they're planning to do, but I'm pretty sure they're not going to issue a CPO for my building and demolish it (I think I lucked out because it's attached to the back of the shops on the main road, and they're leaving the shops alone). They are definitely planning to demolish the mill workers' terrace that finishes about 5 yards from the garage door, which the council has kept boarded-up and allowed to quietly disintegrate for many years, and I think they're planning to refurbish the terrace on the other side of the street (all but two or three of which are unoccupied and boarded up). We live in Interesting Times.

I went out after work and took pictures of most of the buildings they plan to demolish. They're all derelict, most of them burned-out shells, but there's some interesting industrial history here and it's sad, firstly that they've been allowed to get into this state, and secondly that they're probably going to be destroyed altogether and replaced with rubbish modern breeze-block and plasterboard houses and flats. The most interesting building is one I didn't even know existed - it's an odd little triangle-shaped factory hidden in the middle of three short terraces (top left picture below).

The description included in the planning application is a masterpiece of nonsense. Here's an example: "Currently the existing housing stock is made up of predominantly two bedroom terraced single family housing. This is viewed as being non-conducive to the creation of a sustainable community." (WTF?) " Therefore, a diversification of the available typologies within Whitefield is sought. The proposal retains the existing building stock wherever possible, whilst holistically redeveloping the housing; with a view to achieving a diversified typological mix. This is seen as crucial to instigate the rebirth of the town, and to the creation of a sustainable community."(/me bangs head on desk) It goes on to talk about how they want to close off the back alleys and turn them into "secure play areas." And once the back alleys are gone, how exactly are the occupants of those houses going to get their rubbish and recycling bins from these walled-in miniature back gardens out to the street for collection? (they don't have front yards) Hmm...

Coincidentally I watched an intriguing and yet deeply worrying episode of Panorama last night called White Fright about the nearby town of Blackburn. Many of the old mill towns up here like Blackburn, Accrington, Burnley, Nelson, and Colne have large Asian communities, and what has been happening for a while is that a couple of Asian families move into a street, the most racist of the white people move out, they are replaced by more Asians, house prices in the affected area drop, the rest of the white people start to panic and move out in droves, and you end up with towns that are essentially segregated into white and Asian areas. The media is calling the phenomenon "white flight". I must admit I've become rather blinkered to the phenomenon because I live in it every day - it takes an outside viewpoint to demonstrate how bad it's got (the GPS tracking from the white cab driver's taxi and the Asian cab driver's taxi was particularly revealing). I'm one of the few whites who doesn't suffer from white flight - my office is located in a predominantly Asian area and it doesn't bother me a bit, and if I could afford to buy a house of my own (which, sadly, I can't, but that's a rant for another day) there's a fair chance I would go for one in an Asian area because the prices are lower there. What does annoy me about this area is the (mostly white) drunks who stagger out of the local pub on a Saturday night, smash bottles on the street, and puke all over the place, and the brain-dead litter bugs who buy food from the local takeaways, eat in their cars on the double yellow lines outside (which in this case are there for a good reason), and chuck the rubbish out of the window before they drive off.


Your last comments explain why I used to happily wander through Asian Whitechapel of an evening, but wouldn't go through white Bethnal Green much after 8pm.
I thought it was "beware of the Tiger".. Maybe I got that wrong.
"But Mr Dent, the plans have been available in the local planning office for the last nine months."
"Oh yes, well as soon as I heard I went straight round to see them, yesterday afternoon. You hadn't exactly gone out of your way to call attention to them had you? I mean like actually telling anybody or anything."
"But the plans were on display..."
"On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them."
"That's the display department."
"With a torch."
"Ah, well the lights had probably gone."
"So had the stairs."
"But look, you found the notice didn't you?"
"Yes," said Arthur, "yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying Beware of the Leopard."
'the filing cabinet in the disused lavatory...'
I thought you were being serious...
I think it's a shame those old houses were allowed to go to ruin like that ~ at the end of the day there are some areas in my home town that have new houses of a similar size!

There's a whole crap load of redevelopment planned for my town centre and local area too, and I find it quite depressing 'cos I can't honestly believe that residents who've lived here for years actually want more cafe bars, flats and clubs (for example) oh and office buildings. (Reveloping the town centre so that there are more colours besides grey, and a greater choice of shops other than ASDA, Argos, Primark and New Look ~ oh and a new H &M, which is also available at Lakeside, would be nice *ahem*.) It's all part of the Thames Gateway redevolpement ~ the government want the whole spread from London to Southend built up and developed to accommadate all the young londoners. Which is nice for them as it's got to be cheaper to live outside London. But it's overwhelming our little new town. Hell, 60 years ago or something our town was nothing but a large villiage but within the next 60 years it will become a London borough.
It's a Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy reference (see the other comment for the full quote). It's from the bit right at the beginning where a road crew turns up with a JCB wanting to demolish Arthur's cottage so they can build a bypass in its place. If you haven't read THHGTTG I can't recommend it highly enough. The radio series it was based on is excellent too, but the TV series looks rather dated now and the movie was disappointing.

I'm not a fan of modern housing. The only real advantage they have over houses that are 100+ years old is that modern building regs mean they tend to be better insulated, but even so, developers carefully design them so that they only just conform to the regs. I think the government should be discouraging the big housing developers who buy up swathes of land and build massive estates with hundreds of houses on them, and instead encourage lots of one-off individual builds with far more variation between them. I hate to see row upon row of boring identical mass-produced boxes. I also dislike the trend towards "open plan" - in other words, leave out the internal walls so that it looks bigger on the inside but there's no private space.