Just a stone’s throw from the popular seaside resort of Clacton-on-Sea lies the village of Jaywick, a village not unlike many others along the Essex coast on the North Sea.
The town’s 4,400 residents live in a landscape of level fields and salt marshes, the coastline punctuated by impressive 200 year old Martello Towers dotted along the coast, remnants of the Napoleonic period. These 10 metre high circular towers were built as a line of defensive fortresses intended to defend England from invading French naval forces. After renovation in 2005, Jaywick’s Martello Tower was transformed into a thriving arts, heritage and community centre.
In the 1930s, this last relic of a ‘plotland’ development became a budget holiday destination for working class families from London, which lies just 60 miles away. The streets of the Brooklands Estate are named to reflect major car manufacturers of their time, among them Bentley, Daimler, Hillman and Sunbeam. Like Peacehaven in East Sussex and other areas outside large cities, Jaywick evolved into a community where poor families could buy and build their own holiday home. Post-war housing shortages led to the properties gradually becoming permanently inhabited, even though they had not been designed as permanent family homes.
Most of the properties had been built as holiday homes, so were temporary structures that didn’t require planning regulations and the council didn’t provide roads, electricity or drainage.
The lack of building control regulations gave the local authority reason to attempt to re-home Jaywick’s residents, but the strong local community was hugely resistant to change, and in 1970 the residents won a preservation order.
The first mains sewer was installed in 1977, but concerns over living conditions, led to the issue of an ‘Article 4 Direction’ by the local council in 1978. An Article 4 direction is not a conservation designation, but a statement made under the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995. The direction removes all, or some, of the permitted development rights.
Jaywick’s direction controlled housing development, and required planning permission for work such as home improvements, extensions and even garden structures – permissions that are not normally required.
In 2010 and 2015 the eastern half of Jaywick village was listed in the Index of Multiple Deprivation as the most deprived in England. The village was described as ‘a rundown refuge for troubled Londoners’ in 2012 and attracted poor absentee landlords; film makers and TV programmes have concentrated their attention on the high unemployment rate and drug related problems of the area.
The government and local authority have continued their efforts to transform the area, and that strong sense of community has never gone away … as discovered this month by a United States congressional candidate, when an ‘attack ad’ used during the 2018 United States elections, by US congressional candidate, Nick Stella, featured Jaywick – attracting a huge outcry from residents and Tendring District Council.
The dated image, featuring Congress Speaker, Nancy Pelosi with the message “A vote for Foster is a vote for speaker Pelosi. We can’t go back to foreclosures, unemployment and economic recession!” The photograph features unmade roads and dishevelled properties and the slogan “Help President Trump keep America on track and thriving” – implying this was the consequence of voters not supporting President Trump.
Residents have been outraged at the smear, and Tendring District Council has backed up their reaction, pointing out that, since the photograph was taken, £6.5 million has been spent to improve roads and drainage.
Stella has apologised, and a spokesman for the campaign is quoted as saying “our intent was never to make fun of the town” (which was not named).
“I’m sure Jaywick Sands is charming,” she said.