Nov 13 2012 By Mort Smith
HAYES is poised to benefit hugely from improved infrastructure and massive investment.
However, the pace of change must be managed to ensure the heart of the community remains intact.
That was the consensus of those invited to discuss the potential evolution of Hayes into a major west London destination at a debate on Tuesday last week.
Future Towns brought together figures from the world of finance, business, planning and the arts. It was hosted by Brunel University and Cathedral Group, the developer of The Old Vinyl Factory (TOVF) in Blyth Road, where it was held.
TV personality and author Will Self was there. The professor of contemporary thought at the university in Kingston Lane, Uxbridge, stressed that all sections of Hayes’s diverse community had a part to play in making it a desirable place for people to live and work, and ensuring it has a sustainable future.
He said a sense of local empowerment – ‘positive nimbyism’ he called it – was required to make this happen.
NOT much is known about the early history of Hayes. The place is first mentioned in Saxon records and the name itself derives from the Anglo-Saxon ‘hese’ meaning moorland covered with brushwood.
Hayes remained nothing more than a rural backwater until the arrival of the Grand Union Canal (then known as the Grand Junction Canal) in 1794. That spawned the birth of a vibrant brick-making industry in nearby Yeading and Botwell, with the finished bricks being shipped around the UK by barge on the growing canal network.
But even following the arrival of the Great Western Railway in 1864, the population remained small with just over 2,500 living in the area by the 1901 census.
The rest of the 20th century, however, produced a huge expansion of the town with the arrival of several major manufacturing companies including the Gramophone and Typewriter Company in 1907 – later to become Electrical and Mechanical Industries (EMI) – Harrison printers in 1911, Fairey Aviation in 1915 and a cocoa and chocolate manufacturing plant in 1912 that was eventually taken over by Nestle.
By 1931, the population of the town had reached 10,000 and that was further fuelled by armaments production during the Second World War, the opening of Heathrow Airport in 1946, the arrival of the Heinz food processing plant in 1957 and the Stockley business park in the mid 1980s.
At its peak, EMI alone was employing more than 15,000 on a site covering 150 acres.
But the decline of traditional manufacturing meant a rapid change in fortunes for the town which was hit by the gradual closure of the EMI factory and the departure of Fairey Aviation in the 1970s along with a number of other significant employers.
A period of almost total lack of investment in the town centre, the slow seepage of the original white, blue-collar workforce in search of new jobs and an influx of ethnic minority refugees and a subsequent rise in racial tensions, all combined to produce a depressed and depressing feel for the place which is only now starting to lift.
The construction of a by-pass in 1992 and the blocking of one end of Station Road to make the town’s main street a cul-de-sac killed much of the passing trade and the construction of out-of-town supermarkets and shopping centres also contributed to a decline in the variety of shops available in Hayes.
In recent times, few people have been prepared to venture into the town centre in the evenings because of fears of crime, however misplaced.
It was a town desperately in need of an injection of hope – a desire that is now being addressed from a number of sources.
A CAUSE FOR OPTIMISM
THERE have always been those who believe Hayes still possesses huge potential and one of its greatest supporters is David Brough, chairman of the Hayes Town Partnership and of the Hillingdon Community Trust, who has been working tirelessly to spark a renaissance in the town.
Mr Brough worked for Hillingdon Council from 1969 until his retirement in 2007, fulfilling a number of roles, most notably as the borough’s returning officer from 1993 onwards. When he finally left the council he was made a freeman of the borough for his services to local government.
The Hayes Town Partnership has been in existence about 10 years but was re-launched in 2008 when the council recognised that it needed a new impetus. Mr Brough was asked to become chairman in May 2008.
He said: “I did it on the basis that I have always been on the side of the underdog and had a soft spot for Hayes as the poor relation of Hillingdon.”
His love for Hayes stems from a feeling, developed over many years, that the generally well-to-do north of the borough has benefited from investment while Hayes and other towns to the south have tended to be ignored. He is at the forefront of the movement to redress that balance.
He said: “What other town can boast such a selection of road and rail connections plus an international airport on its doorstep?
“We have ready access to the M4, M25, M40, M3 motorways, the Great Western Railway and the Heathrow Express taking people to one of the world’s busiest international airports.
“And within the next few years we shall also enjoy the benefits of Crossrail which will make it possible to get from west to east London in 30 minutes or less. That has to be an attractive prospect for major companies looking to relocate to a site close to the capital.”
Mr Brough also points to a number of positive regeneration projects, which have helped to show the
He said: “The building by Hillingdon Council of the £20million sports and leisure complex in East Avenue is a major boost for the town.
“Construction of the housing development by the Ballymore Group on the site of the former goods yards for Hayes and Harlington Station is providing flats for sale and rental and hotel facilities that should bring a significant number of people into the town centre to the benefit of shops and restaurants.
“Additionally, partial redevelopment of the old EMI and Westland Aviation sites to provide modern office spaces have been let to a variety of companies including Sita and Rackspace. The latter has made Hayes its European headquarters and is now employing over 1,000 people.”
The exciting arts and music project at The Old Vinyl Factory is also bringing a new buzz to the town – particularly for younger residents.
Other improvements are addressing long-standing problems in the town centre. A grant of £230,000 from the Mayor of London’s outer London fund is being used to smarten up shop fronts in Station Road and Coldharbour Lane and to provide training for shopkeepers on the best way to display their goods.
And Hayes and Harlington Station has undergone a £700,000 refit funded by the National Station Improvement Programme that has seen a better booking office, waiting room and toilet facilities put in place. Further improvements will take place when the main Crossrail project reaches the town.
Mr Brough also believes that the influx of ethnic minorities, far from being a problem, offers new potential for the town.
He said: “Hayes has always been a place of immigration.
“Going back to its days as a great manufacturing centre, it attracted people from far and wide, which accounts for the significant Irish community that led to the founding of the Immaculate Heart of Mary church in Botwell Lane.
“Successive periods of immigration have brought a wide range of people with business acumen, starting with Asians from India, Pakistan and east Africa.
“More recently we have seen the emergence of Somali businesses, particularly in Coldharbour Lane, plus a diversity of other nationalities including Afghans, Algerians, Kurds, Poles and Nepalese.
“All this has given Hayes an incredible range of shops, and it is notable that there are very few vacant premises.
“None of these is exactly a branch of Fortnum and Mason’s, and although that reflects the lack of wealth locally we still need a more upmarket range of shops which should be helped by the developments that are now happening or will be coming as a result of Crossrail.”
MEMORIES OF HAYES
HAYES has altered considerably over the last century and we’d love to learn about your memories of the town – both good and bad – during those turbulent times.
What do you miss most about the town? And what aspects of life have changed most for you and your family?
Do you have old photos of the town you’d like to share with other Gazette readers?
And looking forward, what do you think the priorities should be for re-invigorating Hayes? What do you think about the new developments that have already seen the light of day and of others that are now being proposed?
To have your say about the past – and the future of Hayes, email your thoughts and photos to email@example.com.
Future Towns: a vision of things to come. Could Hayes become a model for urban regeneration in other places?