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Caraboo Projects, in Bristol run a fantastic series of podcasts called Loops, and I was chuffed to have been invited to create an episode to further explore my ongoing research around the Plotlanders. You can listen to the episode here

In this episode I was able to continue my exploration into the DIY community, The Plotlanders who resided in my hometown of Basildon, Essex and what they’re story can tell us about current issues of land ownership, the self-build movement, and artist projects that re-address our relationship with land, agriculture and each other.

To get a better idea of who the Plotlanders were we spoke with local historian Ken Porter, and author Deanna Walker who has written two books all about her family's life as weekend plotlanders between the 1950s and early 1980s, artist Georgia Gendall about her project Residency in a Shed on her allotment in Cornwall, and Grizedale Arts who centre collaborative production and functional art in the Lake District. We also spoke with architect Bart De Hartog about new types of self-building in Holland and artist Julia Heslop about issues around land ownership in the UK and a self-build project - Protohome with the homeless charity Crisis.

Contributors & Credits
Thanks so much to our incredible contributors:
Ken Porter – www.basildonheritage.org.uk + www.laindonhistory.org.uk/
Deanna Walker – www1.essex.ac.uk/news/event.aspx?e_id=6049
Georgia Grendall – www.georgiagendall.co.uk/
Bart de Hartog – http://www.bartdehartog.nl/ + https://zooofthefuture.com/
Adam Sutherland – www.grizedale.org/
Julia Heslop – www.juliaheslop.com/

In September 2016 I worked with Nina Humphrey on a memory walk around the North part of Victoria Park, the area she lived as a plotland child. As part of that walk we temporarily installed a road sign titled Alexandra Road.

During Nina's tour in Victoria Park she outlined that today you can still find remnants from the Plotland period. There are two wells now located in shrubbery, one was initially outside the kitchen of ‘The Retreat’ and the other was in the back garden of Pendennis. In the north west part of the park, as you head to Ford Dunton Technical Centre, you can find an old post which dates back to 1920. This post was part of the Farm House gate that was the entrance to the Richards Family dairy farm that was operational between 1919 to 1940s.

Nina and I spoke many times about permanently installing the road sign and creating an information lectern to highlight the plotland history in the park. In 2020 Essex Heritage agreed to fund the project and in June the lectern and road sign was installed. We will aim to host a mini reveal event later in the year.

This Plot is Not for Sale, Digital Print, Xativa / Matt Coated / 230gsm / Neutral White. 42.0 x 59.4cm. 2020

This Plot is Not for Sale takes its starting point from trying to understand the future of what could be classified as the last plotland sites in Basildon. When Basildon was designated as a new town, the basildon development corporation (BDC) acquired large quantities of land for the New Town.

This land included agricultural land and Plotland land. Due to the scattering of the plotland community, some plotlanders were able to architecturally decieve BDC by visually modernising there wooden bungalows through pebble dashing. Some plotland communities were in flood risk areas which also detered BDC from acquriing there land. Therefore a few pockets of plotlanders remained but over the last 70s years propertieis have changed hands and been sold on. Though at heart these areas would still be clasified as plotland sites.

In 2017 Basildon Council constructed the document: Basildon Borough Plotland Study 2017; June 2017 Update.

The Objectives of the study are expanded on as follows:
4.1. The Core Strategy Revised Preferred Options Report 2013 indicated that the Council would seek to permit limited development within the 13 plotland areas in Basildon Borough in order to improve their character and visual amenity. Draft Core Policy 1 indicated that this would provide capacity for around 375 homes in the period from 2011 to 2031. Draft Core Policy 11 indicated that development would be permitted on infill plots and corner plots with an existing road frontage subject to consideration of the character of the local area. However, this policy approach was not informed by a detailed appraisal of their capacity to accommodate growth. The purpose of this study is to provide the evidence needed to support (or not) additional development within the plotlands, to identify any criteria that should be attached to such development, and to inform a more robust assessment of the capacity of the plotlands to accommodate housing growth. The outcomes of this study will inform the review of the boundary designations of plotlands for planning purposes on the New Local Plan’s Polices Map and associated policies within the New Local Plan.

The aforementioned 13 plotlands site stated are:
Fobbing (also referred locally as Crooked Brook)
Bells Hill Road/Hawkesbury Bush Lane
Stormonts Way, Langdon Hills Plotland
Northlands, Langdon Hills Plotland
Green Lane, Little Burstead
Broomhills Chase, Little Burstead
Break Egg Hill, Billericay
Crays Hill
Newhouse Farm and Castledon Road, Wickford
Ramsden View Road, Wickford
Fairmead, Wickford
Wickford Lawns, Shotgate
North Benfleet

The objectives of the study are expanded on as follows:
4.2 The objectives of this study are therefore defined as follows:
1) To redefine the boundaries of the plotland designations on the Policies Map in order to prevent piecemeal development on outlying land which would be harmful to the character of the Green Belt or the purposes of including land within the Green Belt.
2) To identify those plotland areas where additional infill development could potentially occur without causing harm to:
a. The character of the plotland area; or
b. To the openness of the Green Belt or the purposes of including
land within it.
3) Identify the scale of development that may be appropriate in each of the
plotland areas where additional development could potentially occur, taking into account constraints, without causing harm to the character of the plotland area, the openness of the Green Belt or the character of the wider landscape.
4) Identify design criteria that should be applied in those plotland areas where development may be permitted.
5) Provide a robust estimation of the housing capacity of each plotland areas.

Four months later a subsequent document was released titled: Plotland Topic Paper; October 2017

During this period of research, I have been thinking more about the role of land ownership not just in Basildon but also within wider communities in the UK. I am exploring the idea of creating a series of site specific signs in collaboration with local communities who may be at jeopardy of losing land. The signs will stand tall and read This Plot is Not for Sale

During this period of research I have been looking at signage in natural landscapes, and inserting the title This Plot is Not for Sale. This series of digital images currently have no geographical connection to the 13 Basildon Plotlands sites previously stated. These prints initially acts as a proposal for future site specific signs, while sitting somewhere between hesitation and suspicion.

This Plot is Not for Sale, Digital Print, Xativa / Matt Coated / 230gsm / Neutral White. 42.0 x 59.4cm. 2020

This Plot is Not for Sale, Digital Print, Xativa / Matt Coated / 230gsm / Neutral White. 42.0 x 59.4cm. 2020

This Plot is Not for Sale, Digital Print, Xativa / Matt Coated / 230gsm / Neutral White. 42.0 x 59.4cm. 2020

This Plot is Not for Sale, Digital Print, Xativa / Matt Coated / 230gsm / Neutral White. 42.0 x 59.4cm. 2020

This Plot is Not for Sale, Digital Print, Xativa / Matt Coated / 230gsm / Neutral White. 42.0 x 59.4cm. 2020

This Plot is Not for Sale, Digital Print, Xativa / Matt Coated / 230gsm / Neutral White. 42.0 x 59.4cm. 2020

This Plot is Not for Sale, Digital Print, Xativa / Matt Coated / 230gsm / Neutral White. 42.0 x 59.4cm. 2020

This Plot is Not for Sale, Digital Print, Xativa / Matt Coated / 230gsm / Neutral White. 42.0 x 59.4cm. 2020

This Plot is Not for Sale, Digital Print, Xativa / Matt Coated / 230gsm / Neutral White. 42.0 x 59.4cm. 2020

This Plot is Not for Sale, Digital Print, Xativa / Matt Coated / 230gsm / Neutral White. 42.0 x 59.4cm. 2020

This Plot is Not for Sale, Digital Print, Xativa / Matt Coated / 230gsm / Neutral White. 42.0 x 59.4cm. 2020

This Plot is Not for Sale, Digital Print, Xativa / Matt Coated / 230gsm / Neutral White. 42.0 x 59.4cm. 2020

The Haven is a sculpture which is a near to scale replica of the original The Haven Plotland Museum in Basildon. The sculpture focuses primarily on the outline of the front facade of the building. The piece was originally exhibited at South Kiosk for the exhibition A Street Loud With Echoes. The Haven currently resides at its semi permanent home at TOMA upstairs work area, and is used as a space for meetings and group crits. The Haven sculpture has been wrapped in aluminium coated sheets, to encase warmth.

The Haven Plotland Museum currently exists at the Langdon Nature Reserve in Basildon and is described as:
"The Haven is the last of nearly 200 Plotlands homes that occupied the site now owned by the Essex Wildlife Trust. Owned by the Mills family since it was built in the 1930s, it was still standing when the Wildlife Trust took ownership of the reserve in the 1980s. The Haven was built by Frederick Mills and his wife Mena and they lived there with their two sons, Brian and Terry. Brian Mills also lived in the property with his family after his mother and father moved out of the area. The Plotland properties were built by families (mainly from London's East End) who bought individual plots. Although originally intended as holiday homes, the Second World War meant that many families came to live in their Plotland homes permanently. The Haven is now a museum, dedicated to showing people what life was like during the difficult years of the 1930s and 1940s."

The Haven Plotland Museum is the last plotland home to remain in the Dunton Area but not Basildon as a whole, Plotland bungalows can still be found on Laindon High Road and Dry Street area. Some Plotlanders attempted to architecturally deceive the Basildon Development Corporation (BDC) by using the technique of pebble dashing, to visually modernise their wooden bungalows.

Many Plotlanders received compulsive purchase orders between 1949 and the late 1980s, but the role of their land in Basildon New Town was sometimes not clear. Some Plotland land was built on and other areas were not such as Marks Hill, Victoria Park and Langdon Nature Reserve, all areas which have been allocated as green belt land. This does pose the question if the land was never intended to be used for building, why could the Plotlanders not have co-existed with the New Town?
During the period of BDC clearing the area and developing the New Town, two particular interventions appear significant, The Haven Plotland Museum and a book titled A Plotland Album The story of the Dunton Hills Community which both have heavy BDC involvement.

The Basildon Development Corporation operated in Basildon until April 1986 when it was dissolved as an organisation. In May 1983 BDC prepared and created the book A Plotland Album, which tells the story of Basildons past and goes into great detail of the Dunton Hills community. In May 1984 BDC chairman Dame Elizabeth Coker opened The Haven Plotland Museum which aims to show what life was like for the Plotlanders during the 1930/40s. Simultaneously BDC were compulsive purchasing Plotland families including the Darwin family at the Halliford Plot on High Bank Drive, with correspondence letters dating 1983.

This shows BDC were still compulsive purchasing Plotland families while simultaneously creating a book and a museum to commemorate the same Plotland community. Did Basildon Development Corporation attempt to speed up the historisation of The Plotlanders?
The Haven Plotland Museum and the book A Plotland Album book both appear harmless and celebratory interventions but on closer inspection there is something more insidious lurking with the motivation of these pieces, something more manipulative.
The Haven Sculpture while at South Kiosk existed solely as a hollow frame, something ghostly, but has since transitioned into a space for congregation and sharing.

Left: Correspondence letter over the sale of Haliford, a bungalow, plot in the Basildon Plotlands. Image from Basildon Plotlands, The Londoners Rural Retreat by Deanna Walker, 2001.
Top right: A Plotland album, The story of the Dunton Hills Community by Basildon Development Corporation, 1983
Bottom right: The Haven Musum, Basildon SS16 6EJ.

A Street Loud With Echoes continues South Kiosk’s long-term research project into the pioneering work of architecture critic Ian Nairn whose 1955 edition of Architectural Review revolutionised planning policy in the UK. Exploring post-war migration along the Thames, this final iteration of the project navigates along the river taking in the new towns and developments that epitomised post-war planning in the UK.

The exhibition takes in three areas along the Thames – Canary Wharf, Thamesmead and Basildon. Each provides its own foundation myth, a sense of identity that was constructed through the pencil of the architects and planners of the time who sought to erase old histories and replace them with new ones.

Maeve O’Neill’s large-scale photo collage documents the neoliberal fantasies of Canary Wharf’s architecture while providing a sense of the histories that existed before through its interrogation of the district’s edgelands.

Donald Harding’s installation, The Marshes, unfolds across the sprawling Thamesmead estates planned in the 1960’s to house labourers from the old East End. The work uses a horse breed popular amongst the traveller communities who have settled in the area as a way to explore the erasure of histories brought about by the area’s cycles of economic development.

Shaun C Badham’s work revisits the plotlanders in Essex; a radical DIY community who acquired plots of land through auction after the agricultural depression in the late 19th century. In 1949 Basildon was designated as a New Town; an act that led to the compulsory purchase and demolition of the Dunton Plotlands. Today you can still find bricks in the ground, in the form of foundations, boundary walls, wells and other Plotland remnants. The destruction of the tight-knit Plotland communities cemented the reputation of Basildon as the “town built on tears”. Badham’s work brings together a sculptural reconstruction of a plotland residence alongside a separate installation of bricks forged by ex-Plotland communities in Essex.

A Street Loud With Echoes is accompanied by a publication written and designed by architecture critic Carlos Romo Melgar.

Produced in partnership with The Old Waterworks, Southend-on-Sea, A Street Loud With Echoes also comprises a series of workshops with each of the contributing artists.