Home' Greymouth Star : March 6th 2017 Contents Greymouth Star
n indoor toilet, a fitted
kitchen, heating and
a garden — it was the
stuff of dreams when
Britain embarked on an
ambitious project in the
1940s to build prefabricated housing for
people who had lost their homes during
World War Two.
Bombing raids had destroyed two
million homes, 60% of them in
London, prompting wartime Prime
Minister Winston Churchill to look to
Scandinavia and the United States, where
timber prefabrication for houses began in
Dubbed “palaces for the people”, they
offered cheap rent and unimagined
luxury to soldiers returning from war
and displaced Britons who had been
bombed out of their homes and ended
up in overcrowded houses with neither
electricity nor plumbing.
“It was nothing short of a social housing
revolution,” Elisabeth Blanchet, who
has documented the history of prefabs
since 2001 and co-founded the Prefab
The government recruited the jobless,
as well as German and Italian prisoners
of war, to assemble more than 100,000
of the bungalows, built off-site and
delivered ready-made to the plots.
Even though the dwellings were meant
to last for just 10 to 15 years, thousands
of families lived in prefabs much longer,
many of them forging a deep bond with
Faced with a chronic, new housing
shortage, Britain is once more embracing
prefabrication as it struggles to meet
its promise to build a million homes in
England by 2020.
In a major policy announcement last
month, the government said it supported
off-site construction, promised financial
support for prefabs and to make public
land available for “modular schemes”, as
they are known now.
“It’s an obvious way to solve the
current housing crisis — to use more
prefabrication,” David Heathcote, an
architectural historian at Liverpool John
Moores University, said.
While not always cheaper,
prefabrication is far quicker and more
reliable than traditional brick and mortar,
which Heathcote said can suffer skill
shortages and poor craftsmanship.
Britain’s largest remaining prefab
housing estate sits in Catford, a suburb
in south London. The Excalibur Estate
dates back to the 1940s and now faces
demolition, despite a fierce preser vation
battle waged by campaigners and
The Excalibur, once a maze of alleyways
connecting 187 pastel-coloured prefabs,
has long been a target for development
as it occupies prime London land, with
prime property prices.
While prefabs have drawn scorn —
critics say they are poor quality and hard
to heat — Excalibur resident Christine
Gregory said hers had been a perfect
home for more than 30 years.
“This is my friendly little place and I
love it,” Gregory, stroking one of the 12
cats who also call it home, said.
Posters of movie stars cover the walls
and cat toys litter the floor — it is
a home that holds half her life, and
64-year-old Gregory does not want to
leave that history behind.
“I’m not going anywhere,” the retired
factory worker said.
The plan is to flatten the estate and
build almost 400 modern flats, offering a
mix of social and private housing.
As some homes have already been
demolished, her two-bedroom home has
fallen into disrepair because the local
Lewisham council, her landlord, no
longer invests in upkeep.
The council says it would cost millions
to modernise the prefabs, money it could
better spend on modern accommodation
and providing homes for London’s
growing numbers of homeless.
“The regeneration of the estate has
secured better quality accommodation
for existing residents and provided an
opportunity to increase the number of
homes for affordable rent available...,”
Lewisham Council said in an e-mail.
Gregory, who used to share with her
mother and son but now lives alone, is
worried the council will move her to a
small flat where she would not be able
to take her cats and be uprooted from a
“ We’ve got a nice community here, it’s
peaceful, and we look out for each other,”
A sense of pride and community is
what sisters Pat Cutler and Andree Jones
remember most fondly of their childhood
growing up in a prefab in the 1950s in
“It was a whole different political
culture then,” Cutler told the Thomson
Reuters Foundation at a Prefab Museum
workshop in Birmingham.
“It was all about building a welfare
State and making sure people had homes
fit to live in.”
The retired sisters have joined forces
with the Prefab Museum to help map
prefabs and record residents’ memories.
The Excalibur Estate redevelopment
symbolizes a common conundrum for
Britain’s cities — as house prices and
rents have surged in many parts of
Britain, particularly in London, they are
struggling to meet demand and find land
to build homes.
Since then-Prime Minister Margaret
Thatcher began selling off council
homes in the 1980s, very little social
housing has been built, with successive
governments instead seeking to help
those trying to get a foot on the property
As a consequence, demand has
outstripped supply in many areas of the
country, pushing up the average price
of a property to more than eight times
average earnings and forcing many
people to spend up to half their income
In 2015, a prefab in Peckham, a
once-run down but now popular area
in south London, sold for £950,000
($1.652 million), touted for its “new built
residential development potential” —
in other words, the land it was built
While prefabrication is making a
comeback, it’s hard to image how such
new developments will provide the
same sense of community as the old-
style prefabs, Jane Hearn, a London
community worker and
co-founder of the Prefab Museum, said.
“These prefabs were built to provide
housing on a human scale so that people
were able to look after them and after
each other,” Hearn said.
“Modern housing isn’t like that any
more, unless you are very rich.”
4 - Monday, March 6, 2017
We appreciate the value of the Letters to the Editor
column as a public forum for West Coasters and
welcome your opinion and suggestions.
Letters may be submitted by post, fax or e-mail and
must include your name, address, phone number
and — except for e-mails — your signature. Noms
de plume are not accepted.
Please keep your letters honest, respectful and
within 300 words. Letter writers will generally not
be published more often than weekly. The Editor
reserves the right to edit or not publish letters,
especially those that are offensive or too long.
Post to PO Box 3, Greymouth, fax to 768 6205 or
e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
uLetters to the editor
1899 - Felix Hoffman patents his formula for
acetylsalicylic acid, which he calls aspirin.
1933 - Poland occupies port of Danzig.
1944 - US heavy bombers stage the first
American raid on Berlin during World War
1965 - US Defence Department
announces that 3500 Marines are
being sent to South Vietnam, the first
US ground combat troops committed
to fighting against Communist
1967 - Svetlana Alliluyeva, daughter
of former Soviet leader Josef Stalin,
requests asylum at the US embassy in New
1992 - A computer virus called Michelangelo
strikes thousands of personal computers around
1997 - Britain’s Q ueen Elizabeth II launches
the first official royal web site.
2003 - An Algerian passenger jet crashes in
the Sahara Desert shortly after takeoff, killing
2010 - Iran’s hard-line President Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad calls the official version of the
September 11 attacks a “ big lie”, used by the US
as an excuse for the war on terror.
2014 - US President Barack Obama orders
the west ’s first sanctions in response to Russia’s
military takeover of Crimea, EU more cautious.
uWest Coast yesteryear
uToday in history
Michelangelo, Italian renaissance artist
(1475-1564); Elizabeth Barrett Browning,
English poet (1806-1861); Valentina
Tereshkova, Russian cosmonaut
and first woman in space (1937-);
Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, New Zealand
opera singer (1944-); Mary Wilson,
US singer of The Supremes fame
(1944-); David Gilmour, British
musician (1946-); Rob Reiner,
US actor-director (1947-); Kiki
Dee, British singer (1947-); Steve
Vizard, Australian businessman and television
personality (1956-); Tom Arnold, US actor
(1959-); Shaquille O’Neal, US basketball
Le sens commun n’est pas si commun
(Common sense is not so common).
— Voltaire, French author and philosopher
“ I will praise the name of God with a song; I
will magnify Him with thanksgiving. ”
— Psalms 69:30
uFood for thought
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Results of a recent
sur vey of the church-
going habits of
will be completely confidential to the individual
churches. In a special statement today, the
Greymouth and district branch of the National
Council of Churches disassociates its survey
from that mentioned by Baptist minister the
Rev Gavin A Smith, in an article in Saturday ’s
In his article Mr Smith said a recent survey
had shown that less than 40% of local children
attended either Sunday school or a church.
However, Mr Smith when questioned said he
was referring to a survey he had made himself.
He used the 40% statistic and other factors
to conclude that the final product could be a
While D uncan Hardie’s large retail furniture
shop in town has announced its shutdown from
the end of the month, another has consolidated
its business here. The Tainui Street shopping
block comprising Roy Anderson, Eddie Flood
and Tainui Street Bookstall has been purchased
by Mr Anderson for an undisclosed figure.
He had previously leased the block from the
Eighty New Zealand navalmen did liitle to
disturb the equilibrium of Greymouth yesterday
— the first ‘jack tars’ in port for four years.
There was a split second of silence among the
knowledgeable on the wharf yesterday as the
minesweeper Inverell berthed.
“ Very exciting,” was how Lieutenant
Commander C L Stewart described crossing
the bar under “borderline” conditions yesterday
afternoon. “But we managed it all right and are
happy to be here.”
New stackable London prefabs.
Over view of the Excalibur Estate in Catford, South London, 2004.
Histor y House
Acting on information and suggestions
from the earthquake engineer, Friends of
History House have estimated the cost
of bringing History House up to 40% of
earthquake compliance standard to be
This is about the same as one year’s rental
for the Dick Smith’s building. Nothing to
do with the astounding $340,000 stated
by the council in the front page article on
Friends of History House
Is there a seconder?
Given Mayor Kokshoorn’s reply to my
‘please explain’ requests (Greymouth Star,
March 1), it is with a sense of amusement
that I would like to nominate him as a
community representative for the DHB.
He seems to have the prerequisites of
tact and PR spin, along with a natural
aptitude for/in the skilful art of question
and answer avoidance, second only to
Winston Peters and those already on the
Do I have a seconder?
Moana Market Day
The Moana Save O ur Church
Committee would like to take this
opportunity to thank all businesses and
individuals who donated goods and
sponsored events and raffles at our recent
market day, in Moana.
The generosity of the Moana and
Greymouth community and the
dedication of the numerous volunteers
and organisations, ably led by Rachel
Hardie and Rosa Heney, as well as
the many and varied stallholders, all
contributed to a very successful market
day. We are hopeful that the success of
Moana Market Day 2017 can be repeated
A profit of $5000 was generated on the
day and this has made a solid contribution
towards the purchase of the St John’s
Church. O ur committee is deeply
appreciative of such fabulous and ongoing
Moana Save O ur Church Committee
I wonder how many people read Rod
and Rifle magazine? The latest edition had
an article in it about Tb in wild deer herds
in America — who, by the way, look after
their game animals. Just about 99% of the
deer they autopsied had no Tb after being
tested positive beforehand.
I am willing to bet there is a large
proportion of our beef being tested
positive, then destroyed only to be found
clear. Probably good breeding stock.
Most of the possums supposedly having
Tb are probably not the monsters they
are made out to be, so why the 1080? You
cannot poison a country for 50 years with
a deadly poison for no real results. Think
of the collateral damage.
A Greymouth Star report (February 28)
describing the reasons for the closure of
Kowhai Manor provide additional reasons
why the public should continue to pressure
your Members of Parliament for action. It
is clear Kowhai Manor is being targeted,
for undisclosed reasons.
‘ Inappropriate behaviour during
resident care’ was one of the cited
examples for the closure of the facility.
While Kowhai Manor was being
penalised, no actions had been taken
about similar incidents at Grey Base
Hospital. In one incident a witness was
intimidated by management, allowing
the incident to remain investigated. The
relevant union had to be involved to
prevent repeated intimidation.
In an earlier incident at Grey Base
Hospital, a family member wanted to
tell the newspaper about degrading
comments made to her mother while in
hospital. However, the family member
was asked by another family member
not to complain. The second family
member worked for the Canterbury
DHB and a complaint was likely to have
repercussions on her career in a bullying
The DHB is often used as a label to
blame. However, it is important to realise
the fault lies with specific individuals
within the DHB and outside the DHB.
In 2010 an orthopaedic surgeon who had
recently arrived from United Kingdom
was being harassed after being placed in
a compromised situation. He believed the
fault was with the West Coast DHB and
went to speak to the Canterbury DHB
chief executive. The doctors’ union was
involved in a departure deal. The same
CEO recently informed West Coast
public that there is a shortage of surgeons.
In 2009 a patient seen in A and E
following fainting episodes was
misdiagnosed and treated for epilepsy. The
drug created a heart problem. Instead of
reviewing the patient and discontinuing
the medication, he was admitted to a
residential aged care facility. Disclosure
of the incident and staff education was
prevented by the West Coast DHB
management. West Coast DHB had
a CEO at the time. However, he had
received instructions not to inter vene.
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