We began life as the Seven Dials Housing Action Area Committee (1977-1984) - six residents and six businesses supported by a group of talented Camden officers led by the outstanding officer, Dougie Gordon. Seven Dials was in a state of dereliction, with 90% of its housing stock having been vacant for more than 40 years and gas lighting and outside lavatories the norm. Under the old Covent Garden Plan most of the area was scheduled for demolition. The HAA was intended to kickstart the process of urban regeneration and so encourage private investment. Freeholders were offered grants of up to 90% and the local authority could,if necessary, undertake works themselves. Our HAA had great success, with over 200 residential units rehabilitated, initial public realm improvements implemented and additional public and private housing secured. Bringing back the Sundial Pillar was also on the agenda.
Do local authorities have a sense of humour?
On the expiration of the HAA in 1984, we were invited by Camden's CEO Mr Nickson to establish a group to either get back the remains of the Seven Dials Sundial Pillar from Weybridge or build a replica and continue further improvements in the area. On meeting Mr Nickson, David Bieda and Janet Cole-Brooman (members of the HAA) asked whether Camden had a sense of humour. Would they be prepared to write to Elmbridge Borough Council and demand proof of purchase in 1822 by way of an invoice and receipt for the remains of the Pillar and dialstone? As you can see from the press-cutting, Camden lost the 'Battle of the Councils' and our journey began.
Western Morning News, November 1983.
Eastern Daily press, November 1983.
Daily Telegraph, March 1986.