Culture and music focus for Basildon

The home town of 1980s pop icons Depeche Mode and Yazoo could become a “cultural capital”, according to early regeneration plans.

Officials discussing plans to regenerate Basildon said the town has a musical pedigree and could be more “innovative” and “edgy”, using space in the town centre for community-led culture and events.

Vince Clarke was an original member of Depeche Mode before forming Yazoo with Alison Moyet

Councillors met on January 31 to discuss an early vision for the regeneration of the town centre, which they said has been blighted by anti social behaviour and drunkenness in recent years.

This comes after Basildon Borough Council lost three appeals over tower blocks containing thousands of new homes, which were part of earlier stalled plans for regeneration.

Founding director of Thinkingplace John Till, a marketing specialist which consulted 30 local stakeholders, said at the meeting Basildon could be a place where people came together for work, as well as in the night time economy.

He said: “Certainly people said that you wouldn’t necessarily associate the place with culture, but as I’ve touched on, it has this element of music and that tradition and the success of the place from that perspective.”

He also said Basildon is currently a strong place for entrepreneurship and international businesses and is also helped by the South Essex College campus in the town centre, which could play a role in fostering businesses and culture.

But he added the town is challenged by a brain-drain of talent to London and its reliance on cars.

Dave Gahan and Martin Gore of Depeche Mode

Councillor Gary Canham (Con, Pitsea South East) said he would like to see more for families in the vision. He said: “The place that came to mind when you were going through the report was for me more London.”

Mr Till said families wanted more reasons besides shopping to come into the town centre, such as for events, festivals, food and drink, but that currently the town centre is not meeting that demand.

Cllr Melissa McGeorge (Labour, Vange) said: “Funding is going to be a massive thing for this.” She later said: “It’s all well and good having this vision, but if you can’t fund it, it falls flat on its face.”

An officer at the meeting admitted the council had limited resources but said the council would be working with its partners and a delivery plan would come forward at a later date.

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Charlie Ridler

Local Democracy Reporter