High rise towers spreading like an unwanted rash

After a bit of a hiatus, it looks as though Grays town centre is back in the gun sights of the developers who want to tear much of it down and replace it with high rise apartment towers. This is how the story has been covered by Thurrock Nub News: First steps in application for 1,000 new homes and tower blocks in heart of Grays at shopping centre site.

The developers, New River REIT (UK) Ltd., have submitted an application to Thurrock Council asking if they would be required to submit an environmental impact assessment as part of the process. If the visual of what the developers would like to do to Grays town centre is anything to go by, a number of the surrounding residential streets will be finding themselves plunged into the shade for a fair chunk of the day. In our view, any development that puts a neighbouring residential street into the shade is making an environmental impact – an adverse one at that! So as far as we’re concerned, New River most definitely do have to submit an environmental impact assessment. If the planners at Thurrock Council don’t insist on that, then as far as we’re concerned, they’re being negligent when it comes to representing the interests of the residents of Grays.

As well as the desecration of the town centre that New River want to undertake, Thurrock Council are spending almost seven million pounds buying up land and buildings along the High Street with the intention of finding a developer to demolish them and put up apartment blocks. Basically, if all of this goes ahead, there won’t be much of the existing town centre of Grays left standing. As with Basildon and Romford, the vast majority of these apartments will be either for sale or rent. They’re aimed at relatively affluent commuters working in London. This proposal does nothing to alleviate the housing shortage for residents of Thurrock. With the train journey into Fenchurch Street taking just over half an hour, it’s not surprising that developers are salivating at the prospect of tapping into that market. What these developments represent is social cleansing in the name of so called ‘regeneration’.

Grays has developed into a needs based shopping centre that serves a pretty diverse local community. From Morrisons on the one hand to the Eastern European and Turkish run international grocers on the other, there’s a pretty wide range of food on offer. When you take into account the way the retail sector was clobbered by the lockdowns and the general decline of the high street as a shopping destination, there are surprisingly few empty retail units in Grays. Basically, for what it does, Grays town centre works pretty well considering. Yes there is room for improvements when it comes to paving surfaces, street furniture and the like but these are cosmetic issues that can be dealt with quite easily if the will is there. What would amount to wholesale demolition and turning much of the town centre into a building site for years is not what Grays needs.

Over on our sister blog, The Stirrer, we’ve taken a bit of an in depth look at why there’s a rash of these high rise apartments blighting our towns: Why the high rise towers? – October 31, 2021. There are a lot of local groups fighting what’s being done to their towns in the name of ‘regeneration’. They’re fighting because they see these developments for what they really are – a form of social cleansing. It’s time we started to link up these campaigns into a broader, more effective network…

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