A plea that private enterprise should be allowed to build 25 percent of the huge new L.C.C. Estate at Dagnam Park as made by a member of the L.C.C., the Hon. John Freemantle, when the Council passed proposals – given fully in our last issue – for the estate at their meeting on Tuesday. Theme of the proposals, outlined by Mr. C.W. Gibson, chairman of L.C.C. Housing Committee, was that the estate is to be laid out according to the latest town planning ideals and incorporating all the new methods of development.
A ‘mixed social community’ is aimed at but no concrete answer was given to the question ‘how long will the estate take to complete.’ A decade, at least, was suggested.
The Housing Committee, said Mr. Gibson, and the Council as a whole, were going to do all they could to make this new scheme a success from the beginning, and make the estate a place where people could live happily and healthily. They wanted to avoid any monotony, a feature that had been criticised on some pre-war L.C.C. Estates.
Park To Remain
The layout, as described in last Wednesday’s Romford Times, provides for the estate to be divided into three ‘neighbourhood units’ each with its own community centre, shopping centre, cinemas, churches, schools, libraries and other facilities. There will be an industrial section apart from the residential area. It is suggested that it should be situated on the south western corner of the estate bordering Colchester-road and a small part of Straight-road. Along Straight-road will be the temporary house site though when these are pulled down permanently houses will be built.
Gooshays Farm will be preserved in the centre of a public park. It is possible it will be turned into one of the community centres. Dagnam Park itself will remain in the ‘open space’ which will form the main recreation area for the estate, and also preserve the Green Belt. Provision for a hospital was made on the plan prepared for council on Tuesday.
The proposals met with almost unanimous support of the Council, but Hon. John Fremantle commented on the scheme to establish a ‘mixed social community’ by building different size houses to cater for all income groups.
There had been much publicity about the proposal which he considered a credit to the officers of the council and the committee concerned, and he noticed that this particular point had been given great prominence. He had been under the impression that the larger houses provided were to be for larger families not those with bigger incomes. However, he was not going to press that point.
A well-balanced and healthy community, in his opinion, could not be established by providing subsidised dwellings and nothing else. That had been proved in the past on estates built by all parties of the Council when they held the majority. Surely they had learnt their lesson by now. Such a happy unity could only be produced by allowing private enterprise to build houses and sell or let them at an economic rate. If 25 per cent of the estate was developed in such a way the aim could be achieved.
This was not a scheme that would be completed in a year or two, in fact he would like the chairman to tell him whether it would be completed in one decade or two. As that was the case, temporary conditions should not be taken into consideration.
Replying, Mr. Gibson expressed his appreciation of his opponent’s compliment on the layout. However, he could not agree on the method of obtaining the mixed income groups which they desired. In the past, Council’s estates had ranged only between large cottages and small cottages. This estate, however, really meant to include all income groups. He was sure they would have no difficulty in getting rid of the larger houses.
From letters he received every day, it was clear that people were as hungry for these houses as for cottages.
‘We want to see doctors, works managers and civil servants in these houses. I admit we will have to attract them,’ he said. The prejudice which existed in some places against people living on L.C.C. estates would have to be ended, and this would be done by mixing the types of houses and providing an attractive lay-out.
Council Houses Best
It was the old Tory cry, he commented, to say that private enterprise could produce the best type of development, but, he said, some of the houses built by private enterprise could not compare with the houses built by the L.C.C. on their pre-war estates. He thought the times were changing. Looking around London, you could find few private builders who were building private houses for the people. If houses were to be provided for the higher income group, then the councils would have to provide them.
New Style Suburb
‘This is the largest post-war housing scheme the Council has yet considered,’ he continued. ‘It contains all the post-war ideas on housing which we have talked about so often. We shall do our best to make what has been styled “the new style suburb,” a great success from the beginning, and as fast as materials are available we shall build it.’
Addition To Green Belt
In addition to the amenities provided in the residential area, they would be able to make a considerable addition to the Green Belt. They were able to provide 325 acres, in addition to the public parks, which were reserved for the recreational purposes of the people on the estate.
Plan provided, as on other L.C.C. estates, for one-roomed bungalows for old people. Every endeavour was to be made to preserve the natural amenities of the district, trees would be kept wherever possible, and they would try to avoid monotony in every possible way.
‘The Perfect Democracy’
Press comment on the estate had described it as providing a mixed community with the children all attending the same schools, thus bringing about the perfect democracy. ‘That,’ declared Councillor Gibson, ‘is what we aim at in this largest and biggest post-war housing estate.’
The proposals were then carried unanimously.