Eden Road and Harrison Drive rebuild….I remember it well! Back in the early 1980’s, an acquaintance of mine knocked on my door and introduced me to a Mr Roy Puddie and his friend from Trevale Road in Rochester. What came of this meeting was to change the face of High Halstow for ever. They informed me of what had been learnt by the government from a house fire in the Midlands, and that my house had now become blighted and unmortgage-able (basically it was almost unsaleable). The mortgage lenders had apparently pulled the rug out from under us!
It transpired that Cornish style houses in the village could have been suffering from “concrete cancer”, technically called “spalling”. This was not just peculiar to High Halstow, but also Rochester, Hoo, Grain, Higham and thousands of more properties the length and breadth of the country, all of different styles and construction. In fact, it later appeared that only one house in High Halstow had spalling, but every house was affected by the revelation. A meeting of the home owners of Eden Road and Harrison Drive was hurriedly convened in the village school where the “bomb shell” was dropped. A “Cornish Residents Association” was formed with a committee made up of several well known home owners with myself as chairman (for my sins). The government then introduced the 1984 Housing Defect Act, and as they were held accountable, gave a grant for repairs with the owners making up the short fall, providing they met the qualifying criteria. These repairs had to be carried out under licence from reputable building firms, so the committee explored every avenue on behalf of the residents, and reported back via meetings and a newsletter called “The Cornish Prison”. Word quickly spread around Medway and a meeting took place of over 800 local residents, councillors and Peggy Fenner MP, at the Central Hall, Chatham to see one of the many demonstrations by a national builder. The majority of High Halstow Cornish home owners opted for the John Laing method with a few going for Michael Dyson Associates. After numerous arguments/meetings with the local authority, much heartache and sleepless nights, work finally started in 1985 with Laing’s setting up their construction site in White Road. All the houses had to be rebuilt to a specification that rendered them completely mortgage-able with a 10 year NHBC guarantee. I remember that winter of 1985 so well, it was a particularly harsh one with knee deep snow and strong winds, and was a very traumatic time for everybody who had homes under repair (mine included). Householders had to stay in residence whilst the roof was jacked up and the walls removed / replaced from the foundations up; only sheets of thin insulation between them and the elements. It was often referred to as a “living hell”! It’s now over 25 years since that chance meeting in my house, and it’s great to see the Laing Architect’s prophesy has come true regarding the finished product. Eden Road and Harrison Drive are a fitting testament to his foresight and imagination coupled with the fortitude of every resident at the time. “Just another chapter in the history of the village”.
Malcolm Coomber October 2011